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Former England star suing World Rugby over brain damage says he can't remember 2003 World Cup campaign

He played in every game of England's golden 2003 World Cup campaign, but Steve Thompson doesn't recall any of it.

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The former England hooker is part of a lawsuit which also involves former All Blacks. Source: Breakfast

The former hooker has now teamed up with former players as they prepare for a lawsuit against World Rugby and other national unions, claiming negligence from authorities led them getting brain damage.

The 73 cap front rower has been diagnosed with early dementia at just 42 and says repeated head knocks are to blame.

Thompson and seven other players are part of a group mounting the first legal move of its kind in world rugby which hopes to change the way the game is played.

A letter of claim, amounting to millions of dollars in damages, will be sent next week to some international rugby unions and World Rugby, BBC reports.

A group class action could follow.

According to the BBC a law firm for the group have spoken to around 100 former players aged between 25-55 and believe the lawsuit is similar to the class action that the NFL faced from former players in 2012.

Two ex-All Blacks, Carl Hayman and Geoff Old are among those understood to have been contacted by the lawyers about their medical condition after rugby.

Thompson says his illness hit home earlier this year while watching replays of England's World Cup campaign in Australia 17 years ago.

"I was watching a game where England are playing, and I can see that I'm there, but I can't remember any of it. I can't remember being there whatsoever or being in Australia.

"I also watched clips of the New Zealand games on YouTube, when we beat them in Twickenham and also won in New Zealand. I'm there but I can't remember any of it.

"I talked to the specialist about it and they say when you've had significant head trauma through that period, it's like your head's a camera and someone has just taken the film out. The camera is there but it's not recording."

He says during his playing career player welfare was not a priority, saying they were treated like "bits of meat".

"When you look back, if someone got a dead leg or a hamstring, it's like they can't train. But if you got a bang on the head it was like, 'don't worry, you'll be alright, you'll get over it. Just get back in there'.

"That was happening a lot of the time. If someone got a stinger to their shoulder they'd say, 'we've got to make sure we manage that'. They went from having rehab, which is after you're injured, to rehab, to stop you getting injured and pulling muscles.

"There was nothing for the head. When you look at it, they had evidence, they had everything there, but nothing was being done."

World Rugby has responded, telling the BBC that it "takes player safety very seriously and implements injury-prevention strategies based on the latest available knowledge, research and evidence."