A leading orthopaedic surgeon at the Beacon Hospital in Dublin has said he is seeing children as young as nine and ten with serious ligament injuries around the knee and shoulder as a result of playing rugby.

Maurice Neligan said the problem is that many injuries are not being seen in a timely fashion which means they are causing lifelong problems.

He said he is seeing teenagers who may have had underlying problems for a number of years but because they have gone undiagnosed they are almost irreparable and will cause problems such as arthritis when they are adults.

"What I've seen a lot of, unfortunately, is children that have unrecognised injuries maybe when they are ten, 11 and they come to you when they are 15 or 16 and the situation is almost irreparable.

"And those kids are going to develop arthritis and difficult problems when they are at their most formative years, in their 30s and 40s with their own families, and have a problem that's very difficult to address."

He said the focus of rugby has changed over the years from trying to evade tackles to making contact.

Mr Neligan said that he believed sorting children into teams by weight as opposed to age is a good idea and similar ideas have been adopted in New Zealand.