Players have told rugby’s decision makers that a range of player welfare measures are necessary to reduce injuries in the game.
Following on from a similar meeting last November, International Rugby Players said that fewer games and less contact at training would result in fewer head contacts, at the second Shape of the Game conference in London earlier this month.
Head of Player Welfare and High-Performance Conrad Smith presented on areas including concussion and head impacts, laws of the game, commercial rights for players, emerging nations, club versus country (Regulation 9) and high performance strategies for match officials.
He was supported at the two-day discussion by Player Council members Ugo Monye, Dean Mumm, Rachael Burford and Araba Chintoh.
Speaking afterwards, Smith said: “The Shape of the Game conference is a great opportunity to speak to governing bodies, club representatives and competition organisers and present them with the view of the players.
“We had a particularly engaging few days in London and covered a lot of ground. It’s really important for stakeholders to hear the views of the players.
“One of the key messages is that we need to change the culture and focus on less contact in a season,” said the former All Black.
“If we want to limit the exposure to head acceleration events and concussions, the easiest way to do that is to limit the amount of contact in training, limit the amount of training, limit the games that players play and give them a proper off-season.
“I think there’s still value in looking at player behaviour but ultimately the real push is around limiting the exposure to these events,” added Smith.
Conrad Smith: “If we want to limit the exposure to concussions, the easiest way to do that is to limit the amount of contact in training, games…and ensure a proper off-season.”— InternationalRugbyPlayers (@IntRugbyPlayers) March 14, 2023
Read more about our submission to the recent “Shape of the Game” conference https://t.co/41aGm4a54u pic.twitter.com/UkC8e5CZnS
International Rugby Players also raised the issue of growing the game and giving more opportunity to emerging nations. This was supported by Pacific Rugby Players Chief Executive, Hale T.Pole.
“In the last few years, players in Fiji, Tonga and Samoa don’t know how many games they’re going to play (in a season),” he said.
“That comes back to negotiating their contracts, regulation 9 (international release) and the uncertainty that comes with that. But if we can get the global calendar going then it will be a lot easier for players to players to plan with their clubs and they know exactly what’s happening in their year and how many games they’re going to play.”
The conference also discussed the women’s game and agreed that a dedicated women’s “Shape of the Game” forum would to be convened to discuss the advancement of game flow, welfare and fan experience in women’s rugby.
International Rugby Player’s Head of Women’s Rugby, Rachael Burford, said: “We need to go away and specifically look at the women’s game, the trends and the data.
“Most of that information is available from the men’s (game) purely because of the amount of data that they can get hold of. So for us, it’s about having our own “Shape of the Game” forum, where we really dive into the detail of the women’s game, identify why it’s different and what are the different trends.
“Our game has high ball-in-play (minutes), it’s entertaining, we throw it around a lot. How do we protect that and how do we shape laws around what suits the women’s game…maybe there’s some fine tuning there that we can address, look at and consider,” Burford added.
"The Women's game has high ball-in-play, it's entertaining, we throw it around a lot. How do we protect that shape laws that suit the Women's game?"— InternationalRugbyPlayers (@IntRugbyPlayers) March 16, 2023
Our Head of Women's Rugby @RachaelBurf12 welcomes plans for a women's "Shape of the Game" conference: pic.twitter.com/w0HHM9GZHq
The conference was organised by World Rugby and included Unions CEOs, members of 6 Nations, Sanzaar, club representatives, referees and International Rugby Players representatives.
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