2003 Rugby World Cup reveals how he fought back from death after triple 'nightmare' - Ruck

2003 Rugby World Cup reveals how he fought back from death after triple ‘nightmare’

Rugby World Cup hero Ben Cohen, 40, bounced back from brush with death in a tale of resilience against the odds in 2018.

The renowned sportsman found himself blindsided by a trifecta of health woes – a perilous heart condition, septicemia, and glandular fever – leaving him laid low and racing to the emergency room.

“I’ve never flirted with the idea of meeting my maker,” Ben shares candidly. “But when they tell you your weekend plans might have included a date with destiny had you not sought help, you’re reminded of your own mortality.”

The ordeal kicked off in June 2017 with agonizing chest pains, initially suspected to signal a heart attack, propelling Ben to the nearest A&E in Northampton. However, doctors pinpointed pericarditis, a debilitating inflammation enveloping the heart in a protective sac.

As if that weren’t enough, a diagnosis of sepsis, a potentially fatal blood infection threatening multiple organ failure, further compounded Ben’s health crisis. To add insult to injury, medical examinations unearthed glandular fever, the suspected culprit behind the preceding maladies – a condition that would ultimately wield the most profound impact on the rugby star’s life.

“While the pericarditis and sepsis were swiftly addressed with a rigorous course of antibiotics,” Ben recounts, “it was the glandular fever that truly tested my mettle. I’d have welcomed a beating compared to the relentless onslaught of this ailment. It was sheer brutality.”

Glandular fever, an untreatable virus, unleashed a relentless assault on Ben’s vitality, triggering debilitating symptoms like fever and swollen glands, coupled with an insidious fatigue that lingered for months on end.

“I endured two harrowing bouts of it,” Ben reveals. “It faded away after about eight weeks initially, only to resurge with a vengeance in January. It hit me like a freight train.”

The toll was profound, reducing the once indefatigable athlete to a shell of his former self. Simple tasks became monumental challenges, and even mundane activities like applying sunscreen on a family holiday proved Herculean feats.

“It was a battle just to summon the strength to get through the day,” Ben admits. “I went from being a beacon of energy to a mere shadow of myself. It was a grueling ordeal.”

The clouds of despair gradually parted in May, yet Ben acknowledges that his journey to recovery has been a protracted one, with the psychological toll akin to enduring a long-term injury.

“When I was on the field, sidelined by injury, I’d wrestle with frustration, itching to get back in the game,” Ben reflects. “But with glandular fever, there’s no bargaining. You’re stripped of your vitality, left to grapple with an overwhelming sense of helplessness. I’m only just beginning to emerge from the shadows.”


Fullback: Israel Folau (Australia)

Owens said: “For me, it’s nip and tuck between Halfpenny and Folau, next to nothing to choose between them. Leigh is brilliant because under the high ball and with his kicking at goal under pressure. He may not always break the line when running but puts his body on the line in defence and is a top-notch match-winner.

“But I go for Folau – only just, I should stress – because of his ability to seemingly beat his man every time he gets the ball in his hand. He’s such an exciting player and like Leigh he is one of the best under the high ball.

“It’s a toss of a coin for me… and it’s come down in Folau’s favour.”

Winger: Stuart Hogg (Scotland)

Owens said: “How can you fail to be impressed when watching Hogg play. He’s so exciting as he burst into that line and, of course, was named Six Nations player of the tournament.

“I know he’s a full-back for Scotland, but he is so quick and direct he could easily play on the wing. He reminds me a bit of Shane Williams with some of the things he does.

“When you see who is on the other wing in my team, you’ll see how they would work brilliantly in tandem.”

Fixtures for the Six Nations - Round 1

Outside-centre: Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland)

Owens said: “Not only is he one of the greatest centres in the history of rugby union but he’s a fantastic man off the field as well. O’Driscoll has been a wonderful ambassador for the sport and a real leader. He always respected referees and set the right example for others to follow.

“A legend of the game who conducted himself superbly, on and off the pitch.”

Inside-centre: Ma’a Nonu (New Zealand)

Owens said: “He’s another brilliant player and after every game, win or lose, he would come up and give me a hug. Ma’a has always found time at after-match functions or at breakfast if we’ve been staying at the same hotel to come over and have a chat.

“What a player, mind, too. One of the stalwarts of the New Zealand side for so many years.”

Winger: Shane Williams (Wales)

Owens said: “When people ask me who is the best player I have refereed it’s pretty much an impossible task to pick one because I’ve been lucky enough to take charge of so many greats.

“But if I’m pushed, I would pick Shane for what he achieved after coming from football at 17 or 18 years of age.

“He was in the mould of Gerald Davies in how he left defenders gasping for air as he beat them with those dazzling sidesteps. Nobody would fancy defending against a back three of Shane, Hogg and Folau, I can tell you that.”