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Injuries Are Not on the Rise in Rugby and Concussion is Decreasing

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Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

This week many in the rugby world met to discuss a dedicated player welfare and laws symposium in Marcoussis.

The aim is to ensure that players health and fitness is prioritised over everything. It’s first step is to shape the game post Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan and the underpinning consideration is to reduce the risk of injury.

Members from unions, professional leagues, leading medics, researchers, scientists, players, coaches and lawmakers came together for the three-day event and evaluated data they have collected over the last cycle in order to make the next cycle as successful as possible.

They found that since 2014 the overall ball in play time has increased by 14% to 39 minutes, which subsequently means that the number of tackles, rucks and passes per game have increased.

The data which is taken from 22 elite competitions across the globe also found that the overall number of injuries has not increased, and concussion has actually dropped by 14% over the 2017/18 season.

This is the first time that concussion has dropped in the sport.

The tackle was found to account for 50% of all injuries, although that figure is decreasing. However, the tackle accounts for 76% of all concussions, with 72% of all concussions sustained are by the tackler.

World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont talked through the plan they hope to implement over the four-years following Japan.

“The objective of the symposium was to bring together playing, coaching, medical and law experts to identify and explore potential law changes to further injury-prevention while promoting game simplicity, accessibility and spectacle. We have made great progress in recent years. While it is evident from the latest detailed data that ball in play time and the number of tackles is increasing in elite rugby, the overall injury rate is not increasing globally and the concussion rate appears to be decreasing for the first time,” he said.

He also added that this is the first step in progressing player welfare within the game.

“However, we always strive to do more to protect our players and reduce the risk of injury. This forum was an important first collaborative step and the delegates identified a number of recommendations for our rugby committee to consider,” he said.

The outcomes of the symposium include a law trail; With injury-prevention at the heart of the new four-year quadrennial law review cycle, the delegates proposed a number of evidence-based areas for potential law for trial, which World Rugby will now evaluate in detail via the expert law review group.

A law application; World Rugby to implement a high tackle sanctioning framework to promote sanction consistency and public understanding.

The training loads of a player will now be noted starting in this year’s World Cup as players must have a “load passport” in which everything is logged to ensure the best-practice training load.

Injury surveillance that was implemented on January 1st which states a HIA must include; a) undertake detailed injury surveillance in line with World Rugby standards to create one comprehensive annual set of comparable and definitive global data, b) operate a match day doctor at every match, c) implement minimum video review standards and d) enable World Rugby representation on any HIA review panel.

Unions are now encouraged to adopt the Activate injury-prevention warm-up programme that was developed by the RFU and the University of Bath. This found a 50% decrease in concussions and a 40% reduction in injuries when used at least three times a week.

There will be more education at all levels on the tackle to continue the reduction of injuries in the area.

It is great to see the game become safer and hopefully with meetings and plans like this it continues in the right direction.


International

A fertile breeding ground for international players

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South Africa Rugby - Image Credit Asics

One of the significant features to come out of the Springboks’ Castle Lager Outgoing Tour this month – and the November international series in general – was how it underlined the role played by the Vodacom United Rugby Championship in breeding players for successful roles in their national teams.

Indeed, while Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber was initially criticised for ignoring home based players who’d made their names in the Vodacom URC, by the end of the calendar year that had changed, with several newcomers who either first captured the eye in the 16-team cross-hemisphere competition or grew their game there, making an indelible mark.

Understandably, the 2021/22 finalists, the eventual champions DHL Stormers and the Vodacom Bulls, led the way when it came to providing breakout opportunities for players within their system.

Kurt-Lee Arendse, who scored the thrilling try that had Twickenham aghast and even England supporters marvelling at his pace and skill, was one such player.

Arendse made his debut for the Boks in the second Test against Wales in Bloemfontein in July, but it was after France-based Cheslin Kolbe was injured in the third and deciding game against the Welsh that Arendse got his chance to show that he could transfer his sublime form for the Bulls in the Vodacom URC onto the international stage.

He turned in a stellar performance in his first outing against the All Blacks in Nelspruit in August, with his pace and his mastery in the air being a constant thorn to the New Zealanders and he capped it with the opening try of the game.

Kurt-Lee Arendse's seventh try in sevens Tests came at Twickenham last weekend.

Kurt-Lee Arendse’s seventh try in sevens Tests came at Twickenham last weekend.

Unfortunately, Arendse blotted his copybook when red carded following an unfortunate clash with an airborne Beauden Barrett and the injury sustained in that incident, plus the subsequent suspension, prevented him from playing for much of the rest of the Boks’ Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign.

He did return though for the final game against Argentina in Durban as a replacement and in no time at all after he came on, Arendse scored one of his trademark tries, running it in from near the Pumas 10 metre line, off the last move of the game.

The Boks didn’t hit target in that game, and ended second in the Rugby Championship, but Arendse’s star shone, as it did again on the end of season tour.

Arendse was a big contributor to the great Bok counter-attacking that appeared to stun the French in Marseille, his opening try and then the follow up to complete the brace was a talking point when Italy were laid to the sword in Genoa, and then came the Twickenham highlight to the tour.

Arendse is being talked about as a special player, and it was in the Vodacom URC that he first got experience of playing against overseas players and overseas conditions.

Ditto his young Vodacom Bulls team-mate Canan Moodie, who made his Test debut at the age of just 19 as Arendse’s replacement during the international season. His excellent try, plucking a kick out of the air and then running 30 metres to score, was the turning point in the Boks’ favour against the Wallabies in Sydney and will be part of any end of year highlights package.

Canan Moodie races away for his brilliant try against the Wallabies in Sydney.

Canan Moodie races away for his brilliant try against the Wallabies in Sydney.

Moodie started the 2022 calendar year playing Currie Cup rugby for the Bulls, and made a big statement in his debut against DHL Western Province before quickly being elevated into the Vodacom URC team, where his potential was picked up by the national coaches.

Elrigh Louw was another Bulls player who has used the Vodacom URC as a platform to bid for national honours, and he played in the competition in its previous guise as the PRO14 when he was at the Southern Kings.

That was where Louw was first spotted by South Africa’s Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus, probably on the recommendation of the then Kings DOR Robbie Kempson.

Louw played for the SA ‘A’ team in November, but in his absence the 2021/22 Vodacom URC Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year, Evan Roos, made full use of his opportunity.

With only the one cap earned in the second Test against Wales to his credit before the tour, Roos played off the bench in the destruction of Italy before transferring his Vodacom URC form to the international stage in London a week later. In that game, fellow DHL Stormers player Marvin Orie also showed he belongs at international level.

Although Orie had played for the Boks before, and was first capped while still at the Emirates Lions, this was his breakout year at international and he confirmed it at Twickenham, where no doubt his experience of being part of the winning Stormers effort in the Vodacom URC final helped his confidence.

Elrigh Louw and Salmaan Moerat made their Test debuts this year.

Elrigh Louw and Salmaan Moerat made their Test debuts this year.

His Stormers teammate Salmaan Moerat would have added more Bok appearances in 2022 were he not playing behind arguably the world’s finest lock, Eben Etzebeth, who will grace the Vodacom URC in the colours of the Cell C Sharks going forward.

Deon Fourie and Manie Libbok were two other DHL Stormers players who joined Roos and Moerat in making their Bok debuts this year, with Libbok looking the part as a replacement in Genoa.

Libbok is one of the Vodacom URC’s biggest success stories – not long ago he was struggling to establish himself in the starting teams of the Bulls and Sharks, but thanks to the platform given to him by the Stormers, he has grown into a genuine international quality player.

Which of course is exactly what Damian Willemse is now. The utility back had also played for the Boks before this year, and was with them as a replacement at the Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019.

But it was off the back of his Vodacom URC form, and the experience of being in the winning team, that Willemse took the bit properly between his teeth in the international season and made the graduation from fringe international player to the world class player he ended the year as.

And then there is Junior Springbok captain Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu, who we first saw when he played as a replacement in last season’s quarter-final, was selected to tour but didn’t play.

With Italy beating Australia for the first time, and Ireland going through the autumn internationals unbeaten, plus Scotland pushing New Zealand all the way before thumping Argentina and being unlucky not to beat the Wallabies at the start of this phase, it could be argued that the success of the Vodacom URC, and the impetus given to the competition by South African participation, was writ large.

Content & Images from – South Africa Rugby


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Spencer looking to bring innovation to Sky Super Rugby Aupiki

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Former All Blacks and Blues first five-eighths Carlos Spencer hopes to pass on the sort of rugby that marked his career as a backs coach for the Blues women’s side in Sky Super Rugby Aupiki in 2023.

The 99-time Blues’ pivot played 44 Tests for the All Blacks and 89 games for Auckland during his career spanning the turn of the century. He also played for Northampton and Gloucester in the English Premiership.

Since building his coaching record after completing his rugby-playing career in South Africa in Gauteng, he has coached in the Republic, the United States and the Hurricanes in Wellington.

Now he has taken the chance to join head coach Willie Walker and fellow assistant coach Linda Itunu with the Blues.

Spencer, 47, said: “When I was playing, I always liked to bring a bit of innovation and ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking to the table. Now, as a coach, I want to encourage and help grow those same traits in our Blues wahine.”

Like most of New Zealand, he was caught up in the Black Ferns’ World Cup success, and he anticipates there will be a follow-on effect in Sky Super Rugby Aupiki.

“You’ve seen the rise of women’s rugby and the way the public got right in behind the Black Ferns.

“We’re at an exciting juncture for the sport, and I’m looking forward to getting involved and doing what I can to help grow and support women’s rugby.”

“I’ve known Willie [Walker] for a while. We’ve thrown the touch ball around and have a good relationship. He’s done some fantastic work with the Auckland Storm in the Farah Palmer Cup, and I’m looking forward to exchanging ideas and getting the backline humming.

“I don’t know Linda, but have seen her exploits on the field for many years with the Black Ferns – she was an enforcer on the field,”

Blues chief executive Andrew Hore said having Spencer on board with the Blues organisation was special, and was an example of harnessing the resources available within the franchise’s region.

Content & Images from – New Zealand Rugby


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Constructive talks between World Rugby, Erasmus

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South Africa Rugby - Image Credit Asics

World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin and World Rugby Director of Rugby Phil Davies met with South Africa Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus on Thursday and held positive discussions regarding recent events and match official communications in general.

Views were exchanged resulting in a better understanding of the respective positions.

There was agreement that further dialogue was needed in terms of enhancing the process that operates between teams and match officials to ensure all can play their part in creating great spectacles and avoid frustration but in a way that underpins the respect for match officials, coaches and players.

Further dialogue will continue after today’s final Springbok test of the year.

Content & Images from – South Africa Rugby


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