World Rugby has outlined new measures that include a full-contact training cap of 15 minutes per week in an attempt to limit injuries.
The new guidelines, formed after a study that involved 600 players from around the world as well as medical, conditioning and performance professionals, also recommended no more than 40 minutes of controlled contract training and 30 minutes of set-piece work each week.
The study found that between 35-40 per cent of injuries occur during training and that a drop from about 21 minutes of full-contact training currently averaged would have positive spin-offs on injury and short and long-term player welfare.
The guidelines, which are not mandatory but could be set in stone before the 2023 World Cup, attempt to “strike a balance” so players, particularly those moving between country and club, can be prepared to perform but avoid an elevated injury risk at the same time.
The change, which follows the National Football League’s decision to place limits on full-contact training in 2011, is World Rugby’s latest effort to make the sport safer.
Tougher officiating of high and dangerous contact in tackles and collisions continues to be a talking point at all levels, with players now aware a red card and lengthy suspension is likely for any contact to an opponent’s head.
“Training has increasingly played an important role in injury-prevention as well as performance,” World Rugby’s director of rugby and high performance and former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said.
“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.
“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.”