Monday, December 7, 2009

England injuries concern Andrew

Rob Andrew warned the current injury toll is "unsustainable" in the long-term future of the game - and he called upon the International Rugby Board to take immediate action.

England lined up against Australia in the opening game of the November international series missing 10 of the team which had started their last Six Nations fixture.

Andrew, the Rugby Football Union's elite rugby director, said the number of injured players in the English game is up from an average of 25 per cent to nearer 30 per cent.

The England manager Martin Johnson had to negotiate the Test series with 40 per cent of his 64-man elite squad injured.

Andrew suggested the new interpretation of the breakdown laws, introduced by the IRB at the start of the season, could be responsible.

Twickenham officials also have concerns that the emphasis at the breakdown has now tilted the balance too far in favour of the defending team and will raise those concerns at an IRB meeting next Tuesday.

"Injuries are becoming an increasing concern within the game at large," said Andrew.

"In the autumn we were operating with 40 per cent of both the senior and Saxons squads being injured. That is unsustainable as far as the game is concerned long-term.

"The game has to look at the upward trend and whether it means more law changes. Unfortunately, we can't continue with this level of injury.

"Some very specific changes were made in the summer around the tackler and hands in the ruck and also the interpretation of what constitutes a player being on his feet and whether you have to sustain your own body weight over the ball.

"We feel that has swung the pendulum in favour of the defensive side and we are asking the IRB to have a look at this next Tuesday, hopefully with a view to reviewing what is happening at the breakdown and in the game at large.

"The anecdotal view from players and coaches in the Premiership is that the increased collisions because of the difficulty of moving the player away from the breakdown is contributing to a greater risk of injury."

Twickenham officials believe the greater wrestle for possession is wrecking rugby as a spectacle, although the IRB's chief executive Mike Miller claimed this week it is a purely English problem.

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