A week of highly-productive World Rugby meetings has concluded in Sydney with Chairman Bill Beaumont reaffirming the international federation’s commitment to ensuring an attractive, vibrant and strong game for all as the sport looks towards the next decade.
Beaumont said: "Over the course of a significant and highly-productive week of committee and board meetings in Sydney, we have considered some important and pressing topics, which are vital to the sport’s ongoing growth, prosperity and sustainability as we accelerate towards a new decade.
"Strong progress is being made across the board, and in particular, I am determined to ensure that we maximise the potential of the San Francisco 2020-32 calendar agreement for the benefit of all by injecting greater meaning, excitement and value into the July and November windows and therefore unlocking new markets and commercial opportunities.
"I would like to thank our friends from Rugby Australia for their warm welcome and the Governor General and New South Wales Premier for receiving us and expressing their ongoing commitment to rugby in this important rugby nation."
A busy week of meetings began with World Rugby Council member for Oceania Cathy Wong becoming the first female Council member to chair a World Rugby standing committee, reflecting the federation’s commitment to balancing the board within every level of its decision-making structures.
The committee meeting followed a dedicated regional competitions workshop, which focused on areas of mutual interest and delivering the best-possible competition, performance, player welfare and legacy outcomes for the hosts and participants of World Rugby-supported annual regional tournaments.
In addition to approving the establishment of a dedicated professional game committee to progress the calendar discussions, the Executive Committee
Having noted the recommendation of the Nominations Committee, the Executive Committee appointed Cristina Flores (Rugby Americas North) to the Regional Committee and Jamie Heaslip (International Rugby Players) to the Anti-Doping Advisory Committee.
The Executive Committee approved an amendment on player welfare grounds to Law 9 in the context of lifting players in open play (eg from kick offs). With immediate effect, a new Law 9.26 will apply mirroring Law 18.28c whereby: ‘In open play, any player may lift or support a player from the same team. Players who support or lift a teammate must lower the player to the ground safely as soon as the ball is won by a player of either team.’
The Rugby Committee, chaired by John Jeffrey, considered an update on World Rugby’s evidence-based approach to injury-prevention and, in particular, reducing the risk of head injuries in the sport. The committee heard highly-encouraging outcomes from the recent lower tackle height trial at the World Rugby U20 World Championship in France.
Jeffrey said: "We are focused on evidence-based injury-prevention, particularly in the priority area of concussion. Our study of injuries from more than 1500 matches determined that 76 per cent of head injuries occur in the tackle, with 72 per cent of these injuries occurring to the tackler. High-contact tackles (head to head or shoulder) are 4.5 times more likely to cause a head injury compared with low-contact tackles, and an upright tackler is 40 per cent more likely to sustain a head injury.
"This evidence confirms that lowering the height of the tackle will protect both the tackler and the ball carrier. Initial results from the World Rugby U20 Championship in June, which set out to penalise tacklers who were upright via a post-match high tackle warning review process, confirmed a reduction in concussions by 50 per cent, which is very encouraging."
The next trial will operate in the RFU Championship Cup in England this season where an amendment to Law 9.13 will be enforced, altering the definition of a high tackle from above the line of the shoulders to above the armpit line. It follows a similar tackle height trial in the World Rugby U20 Trophy in August.
Rugby World Cup Board
Following the success of the one year to go activities, the Rugby World Cup Board considered Japan’s preparations for hosting Asia’s first Rugby World Cup, including a detailed overview of the Impact Beyond 2019 legacy programme – the biggest-ever undertaken for a Rugby World Cup – which has already achieved 90 per cent of its target of attracting one million new players to the sport in Asia.
The Board also considered an update on Rugby World Cup 2023 preparations, which continue on-track and a
detailed review of Rugby World Cup Sevens 2018 in San Francisco, which attracted 100,000 fans and nine million television viewers in the USA,. The Board also considered the latest updates from the Women’s Rugby World Cup 2021 host selection process ahead of the World Rugby Council decision on 14 November.