(Reuters) - World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont says player welfare is the number one priority at every level of the sport after a group of former players claimed negligence over head injuries suffered during their careers.
A letter of claim from Rylands Law on behalf of nine former players, who are suffering from concussion-related health problems, was sent to World Rugby, England's Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union on Thursday.
Former England captain Beaumont, who retired on medical advice as a player in the early 1980s, did not address the specifics of the letter but said he was "saddened by recent accounts of former players and their experiences".
"My thoughts are with them and anyone in the rugby family who is struggling," Beaumont said in an open letter on Thursday.
"I want to reassure every member of the rugby family that player welfare is - and always has been – our number one priority at all levels of the game.
"As a player who retired on medical advice in the early 1980s, I care deeply about the welfare of all players. They are the heartbeat of our sport and we work tirelessly to protect them."
Beaumont believes World Rugby remains at the "forefront of evidence-based concussion education and prevention" and said the governing body will continue to act on scientific information in the future.
"Both the game and the level of player care and welfare have evolved significantly since my playing days and, while we are never complacent, I have witnessed first-hand how advances in science and medicine have informed our protection of players," he added.
"I will continue to lead on safety and do all I can to maintain the confidence and wellbeing of those who love playing the game."
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru, editing by Ed Osmond)
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