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World Rugby symposium set to further evidence-based player safety initiatives

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Press Release

13th March 2019

World Rugby has announced details of a dedicated symposium that will further evidence-based player welfare considerations in shaping the way that the game is played in the future.

World Rugby, its unions and international and national players’ associations are committed to ensuring that rugby leads the way when it comes to injury-prevention and player welfare. The three-day Shaping a safer game symposium hosted by the FFR in Paris on 18-20 March will bring together leading playing, coaching, officiating, research and medical experts to identify and explore potential law changes to further injury-prevention while preserving game simplicity, accessibility and spectacle.

While injury incidence in elite rugby has not increased since the early 2000s, the shape of the game has evolved significantly. Since 2014, ball in play time in international rugby has increased by 14 per cent, leading to a greater volume of tackles (which account for up to 50 per cent of all injuries) and rucks, while advances in fitness and conditioning and playing styles have increased the speed of the game.

With a need to balance the quest for attractiveness and simplicity of the sport with the desire to further protection of players, the delegates will consider: 

  • The shape of the game: current playing and injury trends across global elite competitions
  • The concussion prevention journey and evidence-based approach to lowering the tackle height
  • The next four-year law review and amendment process and potential law amendments to go to trial
  • Community and age-grade rugby considerations
  • Tournament player welfare standards and match day medical best-practice
  • Player load and training management as an injury prevention tool

Having considered all the data and feedback, unions will be invited to make evidenced-based law proposals that may have a positive effect on injury outcomes and could be elevated to World Rugby’s Rugby Committee for consideration within the next four-year law review and amendment process, which will commence after Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan. 

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “Since being elected in 2016, I have been unwavering in my commitment to ensure that the sport is as simple, safe and fun to play as possible.

“Strong progress has been made in the stabilisation of injury rates, particularly the incidence of serious injury. These advances can be attributed to an evidence-based injury management approach in the form of scrum law change, the introduction of tournament player welfare standards, the implementation of the Head Injury Assessment process, the clamp-down on dangerous tackles and attitudinal changes towards concussion. 

“However, we must and do strive to do more. With the foundations of good player welfare injury management processes in place, we are now firmly focused on injury-prevention and with a new four-year law review cycle beginning it is appropriate that we address the big questions – how to ensure the sport is as safe as possible while ensuring the game continues to attract a new generation of rugby fans and participants.

“I would like to thank the rugby family for their full commitment and look forward to constructive and productive discussion in our drive to make our sport the best it can be for players and fans.

Fédération Française de Rugby President Bernard Laporte added: "The safety of players is the priority for all of us and this meeting of leading experts to examine and further our injury-prevention strategies reflects our collective and unwavering commitment. The FFR is honoured to welcome area experts who will exchange and debate on rugby, its evolution, its rules and the way the practice must evolve. This is an important meeting for the future of our sport."

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