English rugby could face “significant changes” as the sport battles to solve a worrying rise in injury severity, according to the Rugby Football Union (RFU).
The annual injury audit for 2017-18, compiled by the RFU, shows players take an average of 37 days to return to action after suffering an injury — an increase for the second straight year.
The overall ‘burden of match injury’ — a combination of both incidence and severity — now stands at the highest level since English rugby chiefs started keeping the data in 2002.
“The data suggests that more significant changes to the game might be needed to reverse these trends,” RFU medical services director Simon Kemp said.
The French Rugby Federation (FFR) have already called for sweeping changes to tackling rules, after the deaths of four young players in just eight months.
The FFR in December even proposed to World Rugby to lower the legal height of a tackle to waist level and to ban tackles by two players.
In total, 38 percent of all injuries in English rugby were incurred during training, with concussion the most frequent injury in full-contact sessions.
For a third successive year, concussion remains the most commonly reported match injury at 20 per cent.
While the data is for the English game overall — the Premiership, English clubs in Europe and England internationals — the report also gives figures for injuries sustained during England training under Eddie Jones.
In 2017-18, there were rises in casualties sustained during rugby skills and strength and conditioning, the former more than double the figure for the overall surveillance period.
The severity of injury sustained has contributed to the increase and this, combined with the small number of England training sessions, has prompted the RFU to advise interpreting the figures “with caution”.
However, there is a significant escalation since Jones replaced Stuart Lancaster as head coach at the end of 2015.
Last year the issue of Jones putting his players at risk was raised by Bath owner Bruce Craig.
“We obviously discussed the situation a few months ago and what we did as a result of that was look at the transition of players from their club environments into the international environment,” RFU acting chief executive Nigel Melville said.
“International rugby is played at great intensity so obviously they train at greater intensity.
“It’s early days in managing the transition but we did recognise a problem and we think the situation has improved by working with the coaches and the conditioners.”
© Agence France-Presse (Additional Edits By Oisin McQueirns)