irishtimes.com - Last Updated: Monday, August 20, 2012, 09:46
English club rugby to adopt amended laws
Rugby: The Aviva English Premiership will trial the use of a so-called ‘concussion bin’ and extended powers for the television match official in the forthcoming season, it was announced today. Players will be required to leave the field for five minutes to undergo cognitive tests if the team doctor or referee suspects they may have suffered concussion.
If that initial suspicion is confirmed in a pitch-side assessment, the concussed player will not be allowed to return and the temporary substitution will be made a permanent one. The Premiership have also volunteered to trial a greater use of video technology, which extends the TMO’s (Television Match Official) input to more than just the grounding of the ball.
In matches broadcast live on television this season, the referee can ask the TMO to rule on any incident in the lead-up to a try being scored, dating back to the last stoppage in play. The TMO will also have the power to alert the referee on matters of foul play he may have missed. The trials have been developed by the International Rugby Board.
“We volunteered to be involved in both trials,” said Phil Winstanley, rugby director at Premiership Rugby. “The TMO trial in live televised games allows us to maintain the integrity of our competition by ensuring that the match officials are given the utmost support in getting crucial decisions right.
“We are extremely mindful about ensuring that we achieve a balance between protecting the integrity of the game and impacting on the dynamic nature of our sport by creating too many stoppages in play.
“This will be closely managed, with a thorough research programme undertaken by Premiership Rugby and the RFU. The pitch-side concussion assessment trial allows medical teams more time and a better environment to assess head injuries and to make player-centred decisions.
“We have a reputation for innovation and this is another example of how both Premiership Rugby and the (English) RFU is the forefront of the game’s development.”
The concussion protocol was developed by an IRB working group, who were tasked with enhancing player safety without undermining the fabric of the game. Rugby already operates a ‘blood bin’ system, allowing players to be temporarily replaced to have a cut dealt with.
But following the fake blood saga at Harlequins, the IRB wanted to ensure the concussion system was “not open to tactical manipulation by coaches”. Dr Simon Kemp, the English RFU’s head of sports medicine, said: “Being able to temporarily remove the player from the field will allow medical practitioners to perform a more sophisticated assessment than presently and better decisions to be made.”
The TMO’s extended powers will first come into force in the London double-header at Twickenham on Saturday September 1st, with both games being broadcast live on ESPN. The referee can ask the TMO, in addition to his previous powers, to adjudicate on any incident between the last restart and the scoring of a try.
Ed Morrison, the English RFU’s head of professional referee development, said: “The modern game is fast-paced and action-packed and it is important that our officials are equipped with the best tools to ensure that sometimes critical incidents are observed and acted upon.
“The referee is in charge of the game but to be able to draw on the TMO in such circumstances will help us maintain the high standards of officiating that we have in the Aviva Premiership.”
The IRB have made five law amendments for this season, the most notable being the introduction of a five-second rule intended to force teams to play the ball quickly from the base of rucks. There is also a new shortened scrum engagement process. The referee will now instruct the two packs to “crouch, touch, set” — instead of “crouch, touch, pause, engage”.