The Premiership Rugby has announced a series of new player welfare driven initiatives along with new law trials ahead of the 2021/22 Gallagher Premiership season opener on Friday.
The new law trials include 50:22 which was already in operation in Super Rugby AU and is intended to create space via a tactical choice for players to drop out of the defensive line in order to prevent their opponents from kicking for touch, reducing impact of defensive line speed.
Goal-line drop out: This law trial is intended to reduce the number of scrums, reward good defence, encourage counter-attacking and increase the rate of ball in play – operational in Super Rugby AU, Super Rugby Aotearoa, Super Rugby Trans-Tasman and the Rainbow Cup.
Apart from the two, the board has also announced three more globally approved trials with Welfare-focused breakdown law amendments.
Pre-bound pods of players: Outlawing the practice of pods of three or more players being pre-bound prior to receiving the ball – the sanction will be a penalty kick
Sanctioning the lower limb clear-out: Penalising players who target/drop their weight onto the lower limbs of a jackler – the sanction will be a penalty kick
Tightening law relating to latching: One-player latch to be permitted, but this player has the same responsibilities as a first arriving player (i.e. must stay on feet, enter through gate and not fall to floor) – the sanction will be a penalty kick
The clubs will need to take approvals from a panel from World Rugby Independent Concussion Consultants, who will be introduced in the Premiership competition as they review whether players can return to play following a confirmed concussion.
As announced in July, Premiership Rugby along with RPA and RFU have confirmed an action plan involving increased player welfare and brain health for prospective, current and past players.
The expanded focus on head impact exposure sits alongside ongoing work to enhance the standard of head impact and concussion management within the professional game and the introduction of a new brain health assessment service for retired elite male and female players.
The decision to broaden out the approach to target head impacts generally in addition to concussion risk demonstrates the RFU, PRL and RPA’s ongoing commitment to look at all possible ways of continually improving player welfare.
The area of primary prevention will feature the use of "smart mouthguards" during the 2021/22 and 2022/23 seasons and the RFU have also urged the 13 Premiership clubs to limit contact training. This will allow staff to monitor head impacts in real time after successful trial with Harlequins men's team and Bristol Bears Women.
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