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15 minutes of full-contact training per week - World Rugby's new guidelines

Leinster are among the clubs who have agreed to track their contact loads using mouthguard technology.

Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster.
Leinster senior coach Stuart Lancaster.
Image: Billy Stickland/INPHO

WORLD RUGBY AND International Rugby Players [IRP] have published new guidelines regarding the maximum levels of contact training that professional teams should carry out on a weekly basis.

Leinster are among the clubs to have agreed to use mouthguard technology and video analysis to track the effectiveness of the new guidelines, which are the latest measure from World Rugby to improve player welfare.

The sport was rocked in 2020 when several former professional rugby players revealed they had been diagnosed with early-onset dementia and probable chronic traumatic encephalopathy [CTE], launching a lawsuit against World Rugby and several national rugby unions for negligence as a result. Those players also called for limits to be imposed around the levels of contact allowed in training.

World Rugby’s new guidelines recommend that professional teams should have a maximum of 15 minutes full-contact training per week across a maximum of two days, with a complete absence of full contact on Mondays and Fridays in order to allow players to recover and prepare for games.

The guidelines suggest a maximum of 40 minutes ‘controlled contact training’ per week using shields and pads to avoid direct body-on-body contact, while they also recommend a maximum of 30 minutes per week of live set-piece contact training [scrums, lineouts, and mauls].

World Rugby’s guidelines have been developed after feedback from around 600 players through IRP, while Leinster’s Stuart Lancaster was also part of an advisory group.

E_69wIwVIAMm0Wl Source: World Rugby

The data collated by IRP and World Rugby showed that across 18 elite men’s and women’s competitions, teams had an average of 21 minutes per week of full-contact training and an average total contact load of 118 minutes per week.

Leinster are one of the clubs who have partnered with World Rugby to study the effects of these new guidelines in training and matches.

Leinster – as well as Clermont and Benetton – will help to “assess the mechanism, incidence and intensity of head impact events using the Prevent Biometics market-leading instrumented mouthguard technology and video analysis to monitor implementation and measure outcomes.”

World Rugby says this technology “will deliver the biggest ever comparable bank of head impact data in the sport” as they continue discussions with more men’s and women’s teams about joining the project.

Former Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt, who is now World Rugby’s director of rugby and high performance, is hopeful the guidelines will provide vital new information around contact loads.

“Training has increasingly played an important role in injury prevention as well as performance,” said Schmidt, who will leave his World Rugby role at the end of this year.

“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.

joe-schmidt World Rugby's Joe Schmidt. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“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.

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“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 senior coach Lancaster, who helped to advise World Rugby on the guidelines, stressed the importance of not having too much contact in training weeks.

“We have a responsibility to make the game as safe as possible for all our players,” said Lancaster.

“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.”

World Rugby says that it is also working on “a wide-ranging study of the impact of replacements on injury risk” with the University of Bath.

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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