Rugby: Retired rugby players twice as likely to be involved in hazardous levels of drinking, study finds

There are calls tonight for New Zealand Rugby and World Rugby to take action around the excessive alcohol consumption of players within our national game.

It comes following a World Rugby commissioned report, carried out by AUT University, which investigated the health of retired New Zealand male rugby players compared to non-contact sports and the population.

Rugby and beer is an age-old combination in Kiwi culture, but a leading professor believes the relationship between alcohol and rugby needs to change.

"It's the excessive alcohol consumption which is the issue," says AUT professor Patria Hume.

A study, which Professor Hume was part of, found that there's double the amount of hazardous drinking among retired rugby players than the general population.

As a result, Hume would like to see sponsorship reduced.

"There's lots of other opportunities to generate sponsorship for New Zealand Rugby, and it doesn't necessarily have to be alcohol," she adds..

New Zealand Rugby's general manager of people, safety and wellbeing Richard Gilhooly knows society is changing as is the game.

"We've always been proud of the sponsorships we have and how we use them in a positive way in society," he tells Newshub. "But it's an active conversation we'll continue to have."

Former All Blacks who finished playing at an elite level in the 90's and early 2000's were part of the study.

It was also found that ex-rugby players in New Zealand had more concussions than their non-contact peers, with 94 percent at the elite level suffering it.

These levels of research are being welcomed by former All Black, Cory Jane.

"Head knocks, they're not a laughing matter," Jane says. 

"You want guys, or girls, in a physical sport, that after their career's done or a few years down the track, to be ok and not have to suffer from anything."

In a statement to Newshub, World Rugby welcomed the findings, which they believe will aid the understanding of the health and wellbeing of former players.

"I'm not alarmist," adds Professor Hume. 

"I don't think it's scary. I just think it's something that we really need to consider. Because we know that there's positive benefits of playing rugby, but we need to minimise the risk.

Risks, which if not addressed, could do serious damage.