World Rugby chiefs have issued new contact training guidance aimed at reducing injury risks following a global study on almost 600 players.
The recommendations suggest a maximum of 15 minutes full contact training per week, across two days.
Mondays and Fridays would have zero full contact training to allow for recovery and preparation.
Controlled contact training is suggested to be limited to 40 minutes per week.
That would include at least one day of zero contact, while live set-piece training will be at no more than 30 minutes per week.
“Our immediate priority is to get teams to adopt the guidance, and the positive feedback we have received indicates that they will,” said World Rugby’s chief medical officer Dr Eanna Falvey.
“By monitoring their adoption, including using Prevent biometrics’ instrumented mouthguard technology, we will be able to review and identify any further opportunities to advance welfare outcomes.”
Elite teams such as Leinster, Clermont, Benetton and Southland have signed up and they have partnered with World Rugby to measure the effect of these guidelines by using specific mouthguards to monitor implementation and measure the outcomes.
Leinster coach Stuart Lancaster was on World Rugby’s advisory group for contact load along with former All Black Conrad Smith, now head of player welfare at the governing body.
“We have a responsibility to make the game as safe as possible for all our players,” Lancaster added.
“These guidelines provide a practical and impactful approach to this central area of player preparation and management.”
The recommendations are based on a comprehensive review of the latest injury data.
On average full contact training currently lasts 21 minutes per week and the average total contact load per week is at 118 minutes.
Joe Schmidt, World Rugby director of rugby and high performance, added: “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.”
Omar Hassanein, chief executive at the International Rugby Players organisation, said the global body for professionals was encouraged by the response from its members to the guidelines.
“From an International Rugby Players’ perspective, this project represents a significant and very relevant piece of work relating to contact load,” he said.