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World Rugby introduces guidelines for amount of contact, set-piece training

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World Rugby has reinforced its commitment to improving player welfare with the introduction of guidelines for the amount of contact and set-piece training undertaken each week.

In conjunction with International Rugby Players [IRP], World Rugby has created guidelines that will seek to reduce the amount of injuries "while maintaining or improving performance".

Under the recommended guidelines for the professional game, full contract training should be set at 15 minutes per week, controlled contact [the use of pads/tackle suits] at 40 minutes per week and live set-piece [scrums and lineouts] training restricted to 30 minutes per week.

The guidelines were created after consultation with over 600 elite men's and women's players across 18 different competitions, as well as input from strength and conditioning professionals, and medical experts.

While World Rugby says it recognises the rate of training injuries is relatively low compared with those suffered during matches, the governing body has found still that "the relatively high proportion (35-40%) of all injuries during a season occur during training, with the majority of these being soft tissue injuries."

"This important body of work reflects our ambition to advance welfare for players at all levels of the game," World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin said.

"Designed by experts, these guidelines are based on the largest study of contact training in the sport, developed by some of the best rugby, performance and medical minds in the game.

"We believe that by moderating overall training load on an individualised basis, including contact in season, it is possible to enhance both injury-prevention and performance outcomes, which is good for players, coaches and fans."

IRP chief executive Omar Hassanein said the guidelines would become an important part of helping to manage the training load of professional players across the game.

"From an International Rugby Players' perspective, this project represents a significant and very relevant piece of work relating to contact load," Hassanein said.

"We've worked closely with our member bodies in gathering approximately 600 responses from across the globe, allowing us to have sufficient data to then be assessed by industry experts.

"The processing of this data has led to some quite specific recommendations which are designed to protect our players from injuries relating to excessive contact load.

"We will continue to work with World Rugby as we monitor the progress of these recommendations and undertake further research in this area."

While World Rugby won't be pitchside monitoring whether professional coaches implement the guidelines, Leinster and former England boss Stuart Lancaster said the game had a responsibility to better manage its players' training workload.

"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," Lancaster said.

"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."