Vice-chairman of World Rugby Augustin Pinchot has declared the decision of former Wales and Lions skipper Sam Warburton to retire at the age of 29 could be the catalyst for radical change in the sport.
The World Rugby hierarchy have conceded that Warburton’s decision to hang up his boots early is a large cause for concern as the long-term health and well-being of professional players has now come into question.
Warburton has suffered a horrific and seemingly endless list of injuries during his playing career, where he spent half the time off the pitch either under the knife or rehabilitating.
The Welsh superstar even took a year-long sabbatical from the sport following the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour in an attempt to help his body recover.
Unfortunately, Warburton had to make the shock decision that his body could no longer give him what he needed to play at the top level of rugby.
After consulting numerous physicians and doctors, he took the decision to retire last week from the game with his “health and wellbeing” the prominent reason for his curtain call.
In a potentially radical move to prevent the number of high-impact injuries, World Rugby have revealed that limiting the amount of contact in training may be a solution.
This strategy has worked wonders for the NFL and will now be taken into serious consideration.
World Rugby vice-chairman Agustin Pichot has expressed his desire to see significant changes within the sport.
“The red flags are there,” said Pichot.
“Sam is one red flag – there was a tweet I saw about the number of injuries he has had and it was frightening.
“He has had an outstanding career, but a number of injuries. We have to take care of the future generations.
“We are working really hard on that with the International Rugby Players’ Association – we already had a conference on that a month ago, and will have another on August 8.
“We are working towards a training-load system. We mentioned it with the players in Monaco last year – we said ‘we want to take care of you, but let’s be honest when you sign a contract sometimes you don’t protect yourself and want to play week-in week-out’.
“There is a balance to be made.”
In the NFL, they have a no-contact policy up until training camp and then teams reduce contact once again during the regular season in the run-up to matches.
However, the American Football season is far shorter than the rugby calendar which now stretches for as long as 10 months.
Rugby players are also subject to the demands of international selection, training and matches which means a reduced contact system would be extremely difficult to implement.