A Springbok or Wales player diagnosed with a concussion during the upcoming three-Test series is set to miss their next match under revamped protocols announced by World Rugby.
Players will face an increased minimum stand-down period of 12 days in a significant concussion protocol change announced by the sport’s governing body.
Under new criteria, which is implemented in the global elite game from 1 July, the vast majority of players diagnosed with concussion are expected to sit out their next match.
The current regulations allow players who fail a head-injury assessment (HIA) during a game to return to the field seven days later if they follow return-to-play protocols.
The first Test between Wales and the Boks is in Pretoria on 2 July, with the series continuing in Bloemfontein before finishing in Cape Town.
“It is going to be a new mindset for coaches and players. Our approach means it is now overwhelmingly likely a player diagnosed with a concussion won’t play in their team’s next match,” said World Rugby’s chief medical officer Eanna Falvey.
“World Rugby firmly believes that scientific evidence supports our protocols, but we are continually monitoring and testing them to ensure that they are fit for the modern game.
“We recognise that there are differences in concussion symptoms and concussion history, and this process enables us to further protect elite players by individualising their rehabilitation.
“It also keeps in place all the benefits of the previous protocols, which have been so successful in beginning to tackle underreporting of symptoms which evidence shows that, while improving, remains an issue.”
World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin has said no external groups caused it to change its return to play protocols for concussions that were announced on Tuesday.
Former internationals, including England’s 2003 World Cup winner Steve Thompson, are involved in legal action against the sport’s authorities due to the impact of head injuries suffered during their careers.
“Correct, exactly,” Gilpin told reporters when asked to confirm that “pressure from various quarters” had not brought about the shift,
Gilpin insisted the changes were only due to research by an independent group. “It’s the case that the group takes the best information as it evolves and comes up with the next evolution in the process,” he said.
World Rugby’s changes come into force days before mid-year Tests begin, which include the re-run of the 2019 World Cup semi-final as South Africa host Wales.
“We haven’t had a lot of negative feedback. We’re there supporting teams in getting the job done,” Falvey said.
“There’s always going to be a bad time to bring something in. When there’s a hiatus up here [in the northern hemisphere] there’s a lot going on down south. You have to pick a time and go for it,” he added.
Last weekend, Saracens scrumhalf Aled Davies was controversially shown just a yellow card for a head-contact high tackle on Leicester hooker Julian Montoya in the English Premiership final.
Lock Rory Arnold was also sin-binned during Toulouse’s Top 14 semi-final loss to Castres on Friday for a similar challenge on winger Filipo Nakosi.
“It’s not appropriate to comment on individual refereeing decisions,” Gilpin said. “It’s about making sure the referees are consistently applying that head contact process and make sure that everyone understands that we’re trying to drive behavioural change.”
© Agence France-Presse