Load passports and high tackle reviews part of World Rugby's injury plan

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by Beth Newman

Test players will have "load passports" and high tackle laws will continue to be reviewed under a new World Rugby injury prevention plan announced on Saturday morning (AEDT).

The international body revealed its plans for injury prevention, based on five key pillars - law review, training load, injury surveillance, game preparation and tackle education.

Under the changes, World Rugby confirmed that any players in this year's Rugby World Cup would need a "load passport" that tracks their workload between provincial and national duty, including training, to help inform future guidelines for safe player schedules.

Tackle heights will also continue to be reviewed after the "nipple law" trial in the U20 trophy and that of the underarm as the mark of a high tackle in the English championship, while the use of a high tackle warning system will also be considered.

World Rugby will hold an injury review forum in Paris in March to discuss trends in injuries and the recent injury survey announced by the International Rugby Players' Association. 

The RFU will be trialing a lower tackle height. Photo: Getty ImagesWorld Rugby chief medical officer Martin Raftery said rugby's injury prevention methods were advanced but more could still be done.

"While the number of rucks and ball in play time has increased over the past five years, the overall global incidence of injury has not increased, which means that the sport's medical standards and injury-prevention programmes in elite adult rugby are having a significantly positive impact," he said.

"As a sport, we are continuing to drive evidence-based interventions to further reduce that injury risk and this should begin with training load management.

Training accounts for approximately 90 per cent of all player load and is a significant contributor to match injuries, particularly non-contact injuries (35 per cent of all injuries).

"Behavioural change is required in the understanding and management of individual player load and we will be launching research-based player load guidance in partnership with International Rugby Players this year.

“We will also continue to focus on changing player behaviour in the tackle to reduce risk.

"The tackle trials continue and will provide important data for us to analyse and make recommendations to the Rugby Committee.

"The initial feedback on the trials, particularly the high tackle warning system which operated at the World Rugby U20 Championship, has been very encouraging, but we need to see a full set of data before drawing conclusions.”

World Rugby has also decided to stick with the TMO protocol changes trialled in November to put more power back in the on-field referees' hands.