World Rugby has published new training guidelines that suggest limiting full contact sessions to 15 minutes per week.
Issued in conjunction with International Rugby Players (IRP) after a global study of over 600 players, the recommendations suggest controlled contact training is limited to 40 minutes per week with at least one day of zero contact of any type while full contact training is split across two days with both Monday
Live set-piece training will be at no more than 30 minutes per week as World Rugby aims to reduce the risk of injury in training.
Former England coach Stuart Lancaster, now at Leinster, was on World Rugby‘s advisory group for contact load along with former All Black Conrad Smith, who has become head of player welfare at the governing body since his 2018 playing retirement.
“We have a responsibility to make the game as safe as possible for all our players,” Lancaster said
“For coaches, optimising training plays a significant role in achieving that objective. It is important that we do not overdo contact load across the week in order that players are fresh, injury-free and ready for match days.
“These guidelines provide a practical and impactful approach to this central area of player preparation and management.”
The study found that players were, on average, spending 21 minutes of training time each week in full contact sessions.
However some coaches were putting players through more than two hours of full contact training in a week.
While this is not a blanket rule, World Rugby hope that their guidance will be implemented across the elite game.
Global clubs including Leinster, Clermont Auvergne, Benetton and Southland have signed up and will have have partnered with World Rugby to measure the effect of these guidelines by using specific mouthguards to monitor implementation and measure the outcomes, similar to those used by Harlequins as they won the Gallagher Premiership title last season.
“Training has increasingly played an important role in injury-prevention as well as performance,” said Joe Schmidt, former Ireland coach and World Rugby director of rugby and high performance
“While there is a lot less full contact training than many people might imagine, it is our hope that having a central set of guidelines will further inform players and coaches of key considerations for any contact that is done during training.
“These new guidelines, developed by leading experts and supported by the game, are by necessity a work in progress and will be monitored and further researched to understand the positive impact on player welfare. We are encouraged by the response that we have received so far.”
World Rugby is being sued for negligence by a group of former players with early onset dementia and the news comes after 2003 Rugby World Cup winner Steve Thompson announced that he will donate his brain for medical study after his death as part of a new initiative backed by the Jeff Astle Foundation.
Thompson revealed last year that he had been diagnosed with dementia at the age of 42 and that he could not remember playing in England’s triumph over Australia in 2003.
Thompson is the first athlete to pledge to the Concussion Legacy Project’s “brain bank”, which will research Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and other consequences of brain trauma in sportspeople and those who have been in the military in the United Kingdom.
“I’m pledging my brain so the children of the people I love don’t have to go through what I have gone through,” Thompson explained.
“It’s up to my generation to pledge our brains so researchers can develop better treatments and ways to make the game safer.”