Injury prevention focused law trials approved by World Rugby

World Rugby’s Executive Committee approving a package law amendment to improve injury prevention.

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The World Rugby Executive Committee approved a six-law trial proposal following a comprehensive evaluation by the expert law review group, in order to improve injury prevention. 

          World Rugby is unwavering in its commitment to ensuring rugby is as simple and safe to play as possible for all. While injury incidence in the sport is not increasing and concussion incidence is decreasing, we can and must do more to reduce injuries at all levels. This is an important milestone on that journey,” commented World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumon.

The six new law amendments were submitted by unions and developed in March at the player welfare and laws symposium (Paris, France).

The main focus of these new changes is the tackle, as it is responsible for 50% of all injuries and 76% of all concussions. This is being achieved by identifying and reducing high-risk situations within the game. For example, ball-in-play time increased by 50% since the Rugby World Cup 1987 to approximately 40 minutes today and has led to a 252% increase in tackles over the same period.  

Initially, the six law amendments will be implemented as designated closed trials in competitions around the world and if successful, would be recommended for global trial potentially in time for the Rugby World Cup 2023. This would make it the first global showpiece to feature law amendments focused on reducing injury risk. 

The approved six law amendments for trial includes: 

  • The 50:22 kick that would award the attacking team a lineout if they successfully kick the ball from their own half and it bounces in their opponents’ 22. This is in hope of creating space by forcing players to drop back out of the defensive line. 
  • Reducing tackle height to the waist in order to reduce the risk of head injuries for both the tackler and tackled player. 
  • The high tackle technique warning that involves players receiving a sanction for tackles that are upright. This reduced concussion incidence by 50% when trialled at the World Rugby U20 Championships. 
  • The ability to review a yellow card when a player is in the sin bin for dangerous play, preventing players escaping with a yellow card when they deserve a red. 
  • An infringement (penalty and free kick) limit for teams, which once reached would result in a yellow card being given to the last offending player. This limit would encourage teams to offend less. 
  • The awarding of a goal-line drop out to the defending team when an attacking player is held up whilst trying to bring the ball into the goal. This will reward good defence and promote faster rate of play. 
  • Adding one additional replacement per team to prevent players becoming fatigued and overworked. 
  • A reduction in the number of substitutions permitted per game to provide more opportunities towards the end of the game when on-field players become more tired.
  • Ensuring players are off feet at the ruck, which will create more space and time for the attacking team as players must move away from the ball without delay. 

Several unions have expressed an interest in applying one or more of the approved amendments in their domestic or cross-border competitions, including the French Rugby Federation who are potentially making changes to tackle law at the community level. 

         Significantly, these trials have injury-prevention at their core, but there are also clear benefits to improving the spectacle for player, match officials and fans. I look forward to seeing them progress in closed domestic environments,” concluded Rugby Committee Chairman and Chairman of the Laws Review Group, John Jeffrey.


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Kimberley Ndungu

Editor, Concussion Zone

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