Wallabies coach Dave Rennie has expressed reservations around World Rugby’s new guidelines which include limiting full contact training to just 15 minutes each week.
The guidelines were announced after a study involving 600 players around the world and medical and conditioning experts.
The research found that 35-40 per cent of rugby injuries happened while training and recommended that Mondays and Fridays had no full contract training to allow recovery.
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The guidelines will not be enforced immediately but teams may need to meet them to participate at the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
World Rugby also suggested a maximum of 40 minutes of controlled contact training each week and 30 minutes of set-piece training.
Rennie said the Wallabies did about eight minutes of full contact work during their heaviest training day on Tuesday.
“Who’s timing it?” Rennie asked after naming his team to play Argentina on Saturday.
“I’m sure there’s a lot of work going into coming up with these numbers but I’m not certain how that will pan out.
“Thirty five to 40 per cent of injuries happen at training, which means 60 to 65 happen at games.
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“And you have to make sure from a training point of view you’re getting the conditioning and contact load into them so that that they can deal with it on game day and have the technique required.
“There’s focus around reducing injuries but the most important thing is ensuring our athletes have the skills and knowledge to deal with the contact.”
Professional clubs around the world including Leinster, Clermont, Benetton and Southland are already on board with the measures and players will wear special mouthguards to monitor and record the outcomes.
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Former All Blacks star Conrad Smith and Ireland coach Joe Schmidt were among the influential figures on World Rugby’s advisory group for contact load.
But Highlanders coach Tony Brown joined Rennie in asking further questions of World Rugby.
“We’d probably have one good session, potentially around 20 minutes,” Brown told Stuff.
“We just need to get a bit of clarification around the individual contact and tackle technique and all those sorts of things that I believe are really important for players to be able to handle collisions in games of rugby.
“We need to make sure they are getting enough full collision stuff, one on one.
“Otherwise, you’ll find that they go away from all the contact stuff in the training week (and) you’ll get a lot more players getting head knocks at the weekend.”
The NFL made similar changes to contact training loads in 2011 and World Rugby has made big strides in improving player safety in recent years, with tougher penalties on foul play.
Schmidt, World Rugby’s director of rugby and high performance, said fans may be surprised by how elite teams train.
“There is a lot less full contact training than many people might imagine,” Schmidt said.
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“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.”
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