Amid backlash, Nova Scotia tells schools athletics authority to reinstate rugby

The Nova Scotia government has told the province's schools athletics authority to reinstate high school rugby, after it was abruptly cancelled across the province without warning over safety and liability concerns.

Amid a backlash from players, politicians and Rugby Canada, Education Minister Zach Churchill said in a statement late Friday that the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation had contravened a governing agreement with the province.

He said its decision came without appropriate consultation, and noted that respected physicians including the provincial medical officer of health have expressed concerns about it.

The athletic federation had said Thursday its board of governors made the decision for safety reasons after reviewing incident report data from the province's School Insurance Program.

Stephen MacNeil, chairman of the federation's board of governors, said Friday the data indicates that over a five-year period, there were three times as many insurance claims from rugby players when compared with those playing soccer, football and hockey.

He said those figures indicated that rugby players were also five times as likely to suffer head injuries or possible concussions.