"I was like, ‘My ear is hanging off my head. Can you not see that?!'" 8 months ago

"I was like, ‘My ear is hanging off my head. Can you not see that?!'"

"What’s wrong with you?"

The origin story of that Fergus McFadden headband is just what we need this week.


Rugby physios and medics are often required to make running repairs on two or three players at once - so have a lot on their plate. Even so, when a player clearly has some sinews holding his ear onto his head, recognising the (literally) bleeding obvious helps.

On a recent episode of JOE UK's House of Rugby, Sean O'Brien recalled a painful run-in with All Blacks blindside Jerome Kaino that ended his Lions Tour earlier than intended, back in 2017.

On the latest House of Rugby Ireland episode [LISTEN from 24:30 below], O'Brien's former Leinster and Ireland teammates Fergus McFadden and James Tracy shared their own on-field horror stories from tackles gone wrong.

Courtney Lawes tackles Nathan Hughes during the England captain's run held at Pennyhill Park in 2019. (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

"I reckon mine was actually me tackling someone," said Tracy.


"We were playing against Northampton and Courtney Lawes had out in a few late shots on 10s. And I was looking at him and thinking, ‘I’m going to come on an absolutely whack this lad. He’s a bit of a bean-pole’. I had never played against him!

"'He’s hitting the smallest lads on the pitch,' I thought, 'I’m going to absolutely melt him!'

"Anyway, I come on the pitch and the ball is coming off the edge and it was going to 10, and you could see the 10 was going to play it to him. I’m like, ‘Right, this is perfect. The ball is going to be in the air for ages and I’m going to go full steam at him’.

"I literally hit him with everything I had, and I reckon he didn’t even know I’d touched him. He dropped his hip into me and I was in a heap on the ground. The physio came over to me and my arm was just stuck in this position, twitching, and he was like, ‘Yeah, you’ll be fine. Play on there’. I was like, ‘G, I don’t think I can here’. Yeah, you’ll be all right."

"It was definitely a humbling one," the Leinster hooker remarked, "thinking I would whack him, but he genuinely steam-rolled me with his hip. A little flick on his ribs."

Fergus McFadden pictured with his headband on during the 2018 Champions Cup semi-final. (Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile)

McFadden says Gareth Farrell, the Leinster physio since 2008, is great at his job and a top guy, but does not pad around players' bruised egos [or bodies] out on the pitch.


"Medics coming on, at times, there’s so much going on, with people down and looking for water, and rest," McFadden commented.

"Obviously, they initially come on and make sure – see how the player is and what’s wrong. But I played against Glasgow, years ago, in the final of the PRO14 and I hit someone in a tackle, on my right side, and it just didn’t feel right afterward.

"I felt my face and there was blood coming down the side of my face. And I felt my ear, and my ear was hanging on by the bottom of my ear, which is obviously pretty horrible. And the feeling of it was, ‘Oh Jesus’.

"So, G comes on and he kind of grabs me by the face, looks at me and says, ‘What’s wrong with you?’

"I was like, ‘G, my ear is hanging off my head. Can you not see that?!' Blood just squirting out the side of my head.

"He just taped me up. I played on and then I got it stitched. 30 internal and external stitches. So, from then on, I just had to wear the headband every week."

From that game on, McFadden and the headband went hand-in-hand [or head-in-tape].

As for the biggest cage-rattling he ever received on the pitch, McFadden's was similar to Tracy in that he was injured trying to make a tackle, rather than being tackled.


"I tried to hit a guy, against Edinburgh. He had made a long break - a guy called Damien Hoyland. He changed direction at the last second, and I was in a position to hit him quite hard. And because he changed direction, I hit him kind of here and went up.

"It was a high tackle, in fairness, and it didn’t look great. But when I hit him, my jaw hit his shoulder. So I was out cold, almost, before I even hit the ground. So I definitely came out of that tackle a little bit worse than he did."