World Rugby Tackling Player Welfare Changes
World Rugby has released a barrage of press releases this week as it continues to tackle the player welfare and safety issues that have become topical over recent years.
On July 13 2021, World Rugby unveiled a six-point plan outlining its ambitions to “be the most progressive sport on player welfare.”
In addition, new rugby law trials to be implemented globally addressing player welfare were announced while July 2021 will also see the availability of a panel of Independent Concussion Consultants (ICC) to provide independent expert opinions on whether a player should return to play.
World Rugby Chairman and former British and Irish Lions and England captain, Sir Bill Beaumont wrote an open letter on the issues, saying: “I am clear that continuing to put player welfare front and centre is critical if we are to grow our sport. The welfare of our players has always been our number one priority, and the plan we are releasing today underlines that commitment.
It is a plan by the game, for the game, and will have consultation at its heart. We want to build on recent constructive conversations with current and former players, fans and organisations, to make sure we hear from everyone on how to secure the future of the game we all love.”
World Rugby’s six principal commitments on player welfare
- A focus on former players: advancing best practice in care, information, education and support for former players struggling or concerned about their health.
- Innovation led by science and research: doubling investment in player welfare, including working with a wide range of scientific institutions to continue to research and advance our understanding of the impact of head injury.
- Continue to review and evolve the Laws of the game to safeguard players: the two initiatives announced today – global law trials and the introduction of Independent Concussion Consultants – are the first of a series of actions planned in this area. This includes a dedicated focus on a more flexible approach at community level. The following working groups will continue to monitor their respective specialist areas: Head Contact Process, Breakdown, TMO, Scrum and Community law.
- A dedicated focus on the women’s game: recognising both the growth potential and unique nature of women’s rugby. Measures will include dedicated research investment across community and elite women’s rugby and women’s game-specific law reviews.
- Continued investment in education: World Rugby will strengthen the provision of information, tools and resources to everyone involved in the game when it comes to head impacts and player welfare. This will include a new Recognise and Remove head injury education programme and App, a best-practice safe tackle technique programme for the whole game, and rollout of the Activate injury prevention warm-up programme with proven concussion and injury prevention benefits across all unions and regions.
- Open engagement with the rugby family: In partnership with unions, World Rugby will consult widely and deeply across the community and professional game, for men’s and women’s rugby. Where this means embracing non-traditional channels and platforms to reach rugby fans and players, we will do so.
You can read more in World Rugby’s press statement online.
World Rugby Trial Laws on Player Welfare 2021
A package of law amendments will be trialled globally in competitions that start after 1 August, 2021.
The trials include two that have been operational in pilot trial environments and viewed as having the “potential to increase space and decrease defensive line speed, which in turn could have welfare benefits”:
- The goal-line drop out, which has been seen in Super Rugby Trans-Tasman and the Rainbow Cup.
- The 50:22, which was most recently operational in Super Rugby AU.
Three trials focus specifically on reducing injury risk at the breakdowns
- The introduction of sanctioning of clear-outs that target the lower limbs.
- Outlaw the practise of multi-player (three or more) pre-bound pods.
- The third area will tighten the definition of what is permissible in the practice of one-player latching.
- Approved a two-year extension of the trial whereby a team may nominate and use up to five replacements (this is in addition to substitutions to cover HIA, blood, injury or foul play incidents). The substitutions can be made on a rolling basis. In the event of extra-time, a sixth replacement can also be utilised
- Recommended that in-goal assistant referees will no longer be permitted where there is a TMO present at a competition.
Read more details on the changes in the World Rugby statement here.
Independent Concussion Consultants (ICC) experts – World Rugby
The panel of ICC experts will be funded by World Rugby and it will be mandatory for teams to seek an ICC review in the following scenarios:
- If a player has a confirmed concussion and return to play within or on the 10th day is expected, then the team doctor must seek an ICC review regarding return to play.
- Reflecting the sport’s focus on an individualised approach to concussion management, players deemed higher risk in the following scenarios will undergo an ICC review when they are deemed fit to return to play irrespective of the time taken to return:
- Players who have been concussed within the last three months.
- Players with two or more concussions in the last 12 months.
- If a player has had five or more concussions since starting to play rugby.
Find out more on this from World Rugby here.
World Rugby Developments
- World Rugby Appoint Nicky Ponsford as Women’s High-Performance Manager.
- World Rugby Launches Team Powered Women In Rugby Campaign.
- Rugby World Cup 2021 Appoints ChildFund as Principal Charity Partner.
- World Rugby Strategic Plan 2021-25.