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World Rugby study advises removal of reset scrums to reduce Covid-19 risk

Upright face-to-face tackles could be eliminated in bid to stop spread of virus

Steam rises as a scrum is reset during a Challenge Cup game between Brive and Connacht at Stade Amédée-Domenech in 2016. Photograph: James Crombie/Inpho

Doing away with reset scrums and eliminating “upright face-to-face” tackles would significantly reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission, according to a new study by World Rugby.

World Rugby also advises making a change of jerseys and head gear at half-time compulsory, banning huddles on the pitch and outlawing spitting. Players washing their hands and face with soap for 20 seconds and frequently changing balls during matches has also been proposed.

Eliminating reset scrums would be the most significant move however, and one that would be welcomed in many quarters given the delays they can cause.

The findings will be put to World Rugby’s executive committee this week to consider any temporary law guidelines which would be adopted by the unions at their own discretion. At the very least the study – which examines transmission risk via saliva and sweat – is likely to lead to a clampdown by referees on the time it takes to reset scrums as well as upright tackles.

The study states that eliminating reset scrums would lead to a 30 per cent reduction in “high-transmission risk exposure time”, having identified secondrows and props as the playing positions most at risk.

Based on guidelines from the World Health Organisation that define high-risk transition as players being within one metre for 15 cumulative minutes, World Rugby has found that the average exposure time for secondrows and props is 13.4 minutes and, significantly, reset scrums account for 3.6 minutes. In total, scrums are identified as making up 50 per cent of high-risk exposure time during an 80-minute match.

World Rugby has long since been attempting to rid the game of upright tackles, having identified them as a key contributor to head injuries. Tackles when the defender went into contact upright and with force were found to be the most dangerous in a study that led to World Rugby introducing its high tackle framework before last year’s World Cup. The new study states that doing away with upright tackles altogether would “decrease the frequency of high-risk exposure events by 20 per cent”. – Guardian