Player Welfare Law trials set for a big 2020

Player welfare is the top priority in rugby and the sport is set to see an increase in both fan growth and participation at grassroot levels, however one thing that looks set to keep reducing is the amount of injuries sustained in elite rugby.

World Rugby’s evidence-based drive to reduce the risk of injury in the sport continues to have a positive impact having seen the reduction of injuries sustained in elite rugby around the globe thanks to the sports forward-thinking and research driven approach to injury prevention and management.

Throughout the 2019 Rugby World Cup, reducing the risk concussion was the focus and with a 30% reduction of injury rates seen at the tournament, it was a fine example of the change in culture and strong compliance with the player welfare standards.

The player welfare standards used at the Rugby World Cup were the most comprehensive package of tournament standards and included the high tackle sanction framework, which was aimed at encouraging players to only attempt lower risk tackles.

A crucial part to sustaining this reduction of the risk of injury in the sport is the process of law review, and the World Rugby Executive Committee approved a package of innovative law trails designed to reduce injuries at all levels.

With unions, regions and competition owners embracing the opportunity to participate, the process of implementation and analysis has begun, and fans have the chance to see these trials up close.

What are the trials?

The package of six law amendments are:

  • 50:22 kick. If the team in possession kicks the ball from inside their own half indirectly into touch inside their opponents’ 22 or from inside their own 22 into their opponents’ half, they will throw in to the resultant lineout.
  • The High Tackle Technique Warning
  • Reducing the tackle height to the waist.
  • Ability to review a yellow card when a player is in the sinbin for dangerous foul play.
  • The introduction of an infringement (penalty and free kick) limit for teams. Once a team has reached the limit, a mandatory yellow card is given to the last offending player as a team sanction.
  • The awarding of a goal-line drop-out to the defending team when an attacking player, who brings the ball into in-goal, is held up.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “World Rugby is unwavering in its commitment to ensuring rugby is as simple and safe to play as possible for all.

While the recent Rugby World Cup demonstrated a slight decrease in injury rates and a 30 per cent plus reduction in concussions owing to the implementation of evidence-based injury prevention programmes, we can and must do more to reduce injuries at all levels. This is an important milestone on that journey.

“We have already seen hugely encouraging initial outcomes and feedback from Australia’s National Rugby Championship and are delighted to have such a broad range of elite and community leagues running trials thanks to the support of our unions and regions.”

Where to see the trials in action in 2020

  • Australia, New Zealand & South Africa (Super Rugby) High Tackle Technique Warning
  • Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Uruguay & USA (Americas Rugby Championship) 50:22 kick
  • France (Top 14 & Pro D2) High Tackle Technique Warning
  • Community Rugby (C 2nd and 3rd federal division, Federal B, Excellence B, Women’s Federal 1,C Regional series, Honour Reserves, Rugby entreprises, Women’s’ Federal 2, U19 League 1 and 2, U16 League 1 and 2, Women’s Federal U18 , D = Game with 10 players) Waist High Tackle
  • South Africa (Varsity Cup) 50:22 kick
  • Fiji (Kaji competition, Deans Schools, Skipper and Vanua & Women’s competitions) Waist High Tackle
  • Georgia (U16 & U18s) 50:22 kick
  • Italy (Top 12, Serie A, B, C, Women, U18 & U16) 50:22 kick

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