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Warburton fears fatalities unless safety steps taken

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Former Wales captain Sam Warburton has warned that a professional player could die on the pitch unless rugby union takes preemptive measures to improve safety.

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union – New Zealand All Blacks v British and Irish Lions – Lions Tour – Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand – July 1, 2017 Lions' Sam Warburton gestures at the end of the match. REUTERS/David Gray

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REUTERS: Former Wales captain Sam Warburton has warned that a professional player could die on the pitch unless rugby union takes preemptive measures to improve safety.

Warburton's autobiography Open Side is being serialised in The Times and he has written of his concerns about rugby's fatality rate in recent years.

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The 30-year-old cited examples including Nicolas Chauvin, an 18-year-old academy player at Stade Francais who died after his neck was broken in a tackle last December.

"Rugby's just a game. It's not worth dying for," Warburton said.

"If something isn't done soon, then a professional player will die during a game, in front of the TV cameras, and only then will people demand that steps must be taken. It will be reaction rather than anticipation."

Warburton, who retired in July last year having failed to return to peak fitness after neck and knee surgery, said officials should crack down on illegal bindings to spot dangerous clearouts at the rucks.

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"A lot is being done, especially around concussion, but you will never make the tackle safe," he said.

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