Irresponsible dog owners have been blasted by rugby players who fear for their health.

Whitehaven Rugby Union Club's pitch has been plagued by dog mess - with horrified players and organisers pleading with owners to clear up after their pets.

The club, who also has a thriving junior section, is worried that players could even be blinded if they come into contact with the dog muck.

This was further highlighted last week when one of the club's junior 'Sharks' fell into a pile of dog poo.

On top of pre-game "poop-scoops", matches have been interrupted to clear the pitch of mess, and coaches fear the worst.

"When people don't clean up after their dog, it causes a significant health risk to the adult players as well as the young ones," said Whitehaven Sharks youth coordinator Lee Jones.

"The players are constantly putting their hands on the ground, and then touching faces – obviously it's not safe if they've got dog foul on their hand and it's going into people's eyes.

"People are going to get seriously poorly from it."

As well as being "disgusting", not clearing up a dog's poo can lead to serious health issues, including Toxocariasis, known as Roundworm. This is caused by a parasite found in animal poo, and can affect people of all ages.

The condition can even lead to blindness, which is another major concern.

"Dog mess and mud can look very similar, so it wouldn't be surprising if players had it on their face and thought it was mud," Lee said.

"We just want owners to walk their dogs around the pitch instead of on it, and if their dog does foul on the pitch, clean it up!"

The club has contacted Copeland Borough Council, and hope to have wardens patrolling the grounds to fine those caught leaving their dog's mess behind, as well as installing CCTV.

Owners who fail to clear their pets' mess are breaking the Clean Neighbourhood and Environment Act 2005, meaning they could find themselves with a fine and even an appearance in a magistrates court – a fact that Lee wants to stress to dog owners.

He said: "Parents and residents find it absolutely disgusting too. We just want owners to be responsible and considerate – our players' health is in jeopardy."