World Rugby said they are issuing severe penalties for teams that fail to reduce contact training

World Rugby said they are issuing severe penalties for teams that fail to reduce contact training

Tomas Francis - World Rugby said to issue severe punishments for teams that fail to reduce contact training - GETTY IMAGES

Tomas Francis – World Rugby said to issue severe punishments for teams that fail to reduce contact training – GETTY IMAGES

World Rugby has been told to issue swinging penalties for teams that fail to crack down on contact training.

The Progressive Rugby concussion campaign group has issued a number of recommendations to the world governing body, including fines and point deductions to be issued against countries and clubs for non-compliance with return to play protocols.

Progressive Rugby includes clinical experts, former professionals, coaches and academics, with former test players James Haskell, Dan Scarbrough, Tim Stimpson, Alix Popham, Ben Alexander, Rory Lamont and Kyran Bracken among its members.

Urging World Rugby to “hit the reset button right now”, the lobby group called for the following measures to be put into play:

  • Minimum 21-day non-negotiable blanket suspension after a brain injury, regardless of the elite player’s history of concussion

  • Failure to activate a minimum period of 21 days by HIA1 in-game

  • Mandatory weekly ‘bone to bone’ (no pads) contact training limit of 15 minutes

  • Game limit reduced by 20% to 25 games (or equivalent minutes) and mandatory

  • Severe punishments, including club / country fines and point deductions for non-compliance

  • Minimum eight-week protected annual rest, including at least two weeks during the season, with an additional five-week break between seasons and an additional week to be used at any time

  • Injury substitutions only to eliminate collisions between fatigued and fresh players

Additional measures suggested by the group include the establishment of a global calendar, compulsory annual education on brain injuries, health passports for brain injuries, maximum height of equipment at the nipple line, further investigation of changes to the law around rucks and equipment area to protect against impact exposure to the head and neck area and the abolition of the 20-minute red card to provide a consistent deterrent.

The announcement follows last week’s news that over 185 former players are currently involved in lawsuits against World Rugby, Rugby Football Union and Welsh Rugby Union.

World Rugby is believed to have disagreed with Progressive Rugby on some of the points listed when the two sides have spoken in the past as some recommendations are unrelated to the evidence available, including reducing the number of substitutions in the matches and the need for a mandatory 21-day suspension period, which is not supported by Dr Bob Cantu, part of the independent World Rugby Concussion Working Group.

However, some recommendations are agreed such as the limit on contract training each week, with World Rugby currently waiting to validate data from the recently introduced smart mouthguards before deciding whether to further limit the amount of contact training per week. Both sides also agreed that the 20-minute red card, which will be used in the rugby league in the coming weeks, should not be part of either an overall process or the rules of the game.

However, communication between Progressive Rugby and World Rugby has now been severed, given Progressive Rugby’s wider links with the pending lawsuit against World Rugby, RFU and WRU.

Progressive Rugby’s Professor John Fairclough said: “There is now no option but to drastically reduce the number of impacts a player receives during his career and pay close attention to managing players who suffer brain injuries.”

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