Keith Mason, 33, who played for Super League clubs St Helens, Huddersfield Giants, Wakefield Wildcats and Castleford Tigers, collided head-on with Katie Galvin’s Mini Cooper while driving his 4x4 Nissan Qashqai in Birstall in West Yorkshire in August last year.
Ms Galvin and her daughters, aged eight and 11, suffered minor injuries in the crash and later required hospital treatment.
But Leeds magistrates were told Mason got out of his car and made no attempt to exchange details before walking away.
He was later traced by police and admitted careless driving, leaving the scene of a collision and failing to exchange details.
Mason was yesterday banned from driving for a year and given a nine-month community order and will be under curfew between 7am and 7pm for two months.
But the road safety charity, Brake, claimed the punishment did not go far enough.
Spokeswoman Sarah-Jane Martin said: “Lenient sentences send entirely the wrong message to road crash victims, their families and other road users.
“A tougher sentence would send a clearer message that behaviour such as this won’t be tolerated. It would also act as an effective deterrent to others.”
The court heard Mason had been seen driving erratically by an off-duty police officer shortly before the crash on Cambridge Road on the afternoon of August 9.
Ms Galvin pulled her car to the side of the road to try to avoid the collision, but Mason drove directly at her and appeared to accelerate before crashing into her.
The court was told he was concussed and walked to his sister’s home and slept for five to six hours.
He later told police he thought he was on the right side of the road but was dazed after his airbag went off.
Mitigating, Charles Watson said his client, who has aspirations to be a film star, had not driven since the incident.
He added: “As you can imagine many sportsmen find the transition period after retirement can be difficult and this tragic accident hasn’t helped that.”
Stacey Smith, for the probation service, said Mason, who has been pursuing an acting and modelling career since retiring from rugby, had expressed concern about the effect of the case on his future career.
“He tells me he wants to get into films,” she said.
Mr Watson added: “He is very anxious to have these proceedings dealt with. He wants to move on with his life and he has various options open to him in the film/entertainment industry.”
Sentencing Mason, chairman of the bench Pat Rothery said: “These are serious offences, with examples of bad driving that left injured people at the scene.”
Mason was also ordered to pay a £60 surcharge and £85 costs.