Brian O’Driscoll, Injuries, and the “Club vs. Country” Debate

Ireland center Brian O’Driscoll might become the latest Rugby World Cup casualty to take an extended leave of absence from the rugby pitch.

After gutting through the Rugby World Cup, thanks in large part to cortisone injections according to ESPN Scrum, O’Driscoll, 32, is at risk of having to get surgery for an injured shoulder so he can play for RaboDirect PRO 12 team Leinster. According to Leinster coach Joe Schmidt:

“He’s a fairly precious commodity, BOD, so we want to make sure we don’t play him in the condition that’s going to affect him in the future and we look after him as best we can. Because if we can get him right, he’s a fairly handy fellah to have.”

This brings up the question of club vs. country once again. It’s considered the greatest honor for a player to be selected for their country, but in an age of professionalism teams have to ask how best to balance both commitments for players. These professional teams are paying thousands of dollars/pounds/euros for the services of these players,and have as much of a right to these players’ efforts.

If they aren’t available because of injuries sustained in the line of their international duty, then I’m sure many of these teams feel that steps need to be taken. Whether it’s the professional team being compensated part of their salary spent on the player by the country, or another agreement between the competition, teams and country.

I’m sure there are those who have a counter opinion, that national team matches are more important than professional team expectations. They might even wish to point to soccer or basketball as an example, that it is possible to play for both team and nation.

As anyone who has ever been on the rugby pitch knows, rugby is a more physical sport than either of those two sports. Placing the same expectations on a rugby player that fans might have on a soccer player are more likely to wear down the rugger, increasing the chances for additional injuries.

Professional rugby players already have a too-long season to contend with, but to pile on additional national team duties, or visiting international tours on top of that might be pushing these athletes to, or beyond, their physical limits.

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