We’re all getting ready for the Rugby World Cup at the end of the month, obviously – but while us fans are working out how to reorganise our sleep patterns right through to the beginning of November, the game has its eye firmly on the future.
After a comprehensive evaluation of the sport and its injury rate by the World Rugby Law Review Group, six new trials have been announced in an attempt to bring the rugby injuries rate down. Depending on their success – or otherwise – we could see certain changes happening to the sport as recently as the 2023 World Cup in France, and the findings could even set the course of the Union code for the rest of the century.
Here are the trials which most concern the sports medical community;
Rugby injuries trial: the reduction of tackle height to the waist
Obviously, this is the big one, and the reasons for it are clear as day: it’s a bid to reduce injuries, and head injuries in particular. According to the Law Review Group’s findings, 50% of all rugby injuries – and a whopping 76% of concussions – occur in tackles.
The concussion rate is particularly alarming: anyone who takes the slightest interest in American football will be aware of the spate of problems retired NFL players are dealing with, and although the Union code isn’t as blatant when it comes to head-to-head contact, the speeding-up of the game and improved physical condition of its players mean that the knocks are getting harder.
Ruby injuries trial: the high tackle technique warning
Simply put, if you put in an upright tackle (i.e., you’re not bent at the waist as you go in), and there is clear and obvious head contact, you’re issued with a warning. If you get a second warning, you automatically serve a one-game suspension.
This rule has been trialled at the World Rugby U20 Championship for the last two years, and it appears to have worked. Over the course of 300 matches, the LRG worked out that an average of 2.5 high tackle technique warnings were issued, and the incidence of concussion in games dropped by more than 50%.
While the other trials are more concerned with sin bins, encouraging players to drop back from the defensive line and reducing defensive line speed, these two trials have attracted the most attention, and for good reasons. As Bill Beaumont, the chairman of World Rugby’s executive committee, pointed out; “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.
“The next step is to identify in partnership with our unions’ appropriate competitions to run the trials.”
Several unions, particularly those Australia, France and South Africa, are interested in operating one or more of the trials in domestic or cross-border competition, meaning that the possibilities of a safer sport could be in reach over the next few decades. Which can only be a good thing.
For advice, diagnosis or treatment of rugby injuries, call 0203 195 2443 to arrange a consultation with Mr Jonathan Webb