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World Rugby have limited full-contact training to 15 minutes per week as part of a set of new guidelines aimed at reducing injury risk and supporting short and long-term player welfare.
The guidelines have been published by both World Rugby and International Rugby Players (IRP), and is supported by national players’ associations, national unions, international and domestic competitions, top coaches and clubs.
They focus on the intensity and frequency of contact training that rugby players undertake throughout their careers.
Full contact training is recommended to be limited to a maximum of 15 minutes per week across a maximum of two days per week with Mondays and Fridays comprising zero full contact training to allow for recovery and preparation.
Other recommended limits include a 40-minute cap on controlled contact training per week and a 30-minute restriction on live set-piece training.
World Rugby Director of Rugby and High Performance and former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt added: “Training has increasingly played an important role in injury prevention as well as 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.
“We recognise that community-level rugby can be an almost entirely different sport in terms of fitness levels, resources and how players can be expected to train, but the guidelines can be applied at many levels, especially the planning, purpose and monitoring of any contact in training.”
Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster, who was involved in reviewing the study and advising the development of the guidelines, said: “We have a responsibility to make the game as safe as possible for all our players. 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.”
Ireland international and IRP Head of Strategic Projects and Research Sene Naoupu said: “While this is the first step of the implementation and monitoring process, it is an incredible outcome that shows just how much players care about this area.
“It also provides a foundation to review and determine the future direction of implementation across the game, within an evidence-based injury-prevention programme for performance and welfare.”
The guidelines will feature in the men’s and women’s Rugby World Cup player welfare standards.
World Rugby is also working on a “wide-ranging study of the impact of replacements on injury risk in the sport with the University of Bath in England.”
All of these activities will inform the decisions the sport makes to advance welfare for players at all levels and stages.