Age differential playing guideline

This guideline aims to protect the safety and welfare of age grade rugby players by trying to ensure that participants with broadly compatible physical development and skill levels play with and against each other.

World Rugby recognises the inherent differences across Unions world-wide and seeks to provide direction in the management of this issue for Member Unions. Member Unions will be responsible for the development of their Union specific Policy.

This guideline applies to all junior/school age grade (contact Rugby) competitions/matches up to and including U19.

Best practise is for players to play within a one year "age window”. This tends to be driven by calendar year, for example born in 1997 or in some Unions by academic year.

Acceptable practise is for players to play within a two year “age window”.

In exceptional circumstances a player may play within a three year “age window”. As an example, a player participating in an Under 12 match must be turning 10, 11 or 12 years of age during the competition in which the match is played. In order to assess the suitability of players in such circumstances, the following criteria should be considered for inclusion within a Union's Policy:

  1. Written agreement from the player’s parents or guardians to play and acceptance of the associated risk with playing with people who may be stronger and more physically developed than them;
  2. Written confirmation from a medical practitioner with an understanding of the demands of Rugby to whom the player is known that the player is in a physical condition to play Rugby at the desired level and that this view is supported by a musculoskeletal evaluation and/or other appropriate assessments;
  3. Written agreement from a medical officer with an understanding of the demands of Rugby employed or retained by the player’s home union that the player is in a physical condition to play Rugby at the desired level and that this view is supported by musculoskeletal evaluation and/or other appropriate assessments;
  4. Written confirmation from a coach with an appropriate understanding of the physical attributes required and of the risks to players in Rugby and to whom the player is known that the player has the requisite skills and experience to play Rugby at the desired level; and
  5. Such other consents, agreements or confirmations (if any) as may be required by the player’s home Union or to comply with the local jurisdiction.
 

A player should not participate in an age grade competition more than three years above his or her age.

Front row players need particular attention

It is recognised that the front row playing positions (prop and hooker) in Rugby potentially carries an increased risk of injury with respect to the scrum. It is therefore recommended that a more rigid process and criteria for these positions be applied if a two year "age window" is adopted. This could be similar to the requirements set out above for the three year “age window.” It is possible that Unions may introduce some form of strength assessment and or investigation into physical capacity of players in this situation.

Under no circumstances should consideration ever be given to allowing a player to play front row within a three year "age window" situation.

It is important that all people involved in a decision to permit a player from the lowest age to participate in an age group above the two-year period understand that rugby is a contact sport and, like all contact sports, players are exposed to the risk of injury.  

A parent or guardian of a child under the age of 18 must consent to the child playing with players who are two years older. That consent can be evidenced by completing a Consent Form.

Players irrespective of their age should be prepared in a manner to play the game safely and should have undertaken a safety awareness program such as Rugby Ready or the equivalent available within the Union.

Under 18s playing Adult Rugby Guideline

This Guideline differentiates between Elite Adult Rugby and Community/Participation Rugby because of:

  • The intensity of Elite Rugby;
  • The physicality and fitness associated with Elite Rugby;
  • The ability to monitor regulations and protocols specific to Elite Rugby;
  • The expert professional advice and support normally available to Elite Rugby Players; and
  • The disparity between Community Rugby played in different Unions making the setting of common guidelines inappropriate.

This guideline applies to all Under 18 Rugby Players who are eligible to play at a lower age grade and who wish to play Adult Rugby.

Elite Adult Rugby

Best practise is for Under 18 Age grade Rugby Players not to play Elite Adult Rugby.

Acceptable practise is for players who are eligible to play at Under 18 level, and who are not eligible to play at any lower Age Grade, to play Elite Adult Rugby at any position other than the front row (excluding Rugby Sevens).

In such circumstances, the following should be considered for inclusion within a Union's Policy:

  1. Written agreement from the Under 18 player to play Elite Adult Rugby and acceptance of the associated risk with playing with Adults who may be stronger and more physically developed than them;
  2. Parental or legal guardian’s consent in writing;
  3. Written confirmation from a medical practitioner with an understanding of the demands of Elite Rugby to whom the player is known that the player is in a physical condition to play Elite Adult Rugby and that this view is supported by a musculoskeletal evaluation and/or other appropriate assessments;
  4. Written agreement from a medical officer with an understanding of the demands of Elite Rugby employed or retained by the player’s home union that the player is in a physical condition to play Elite Adult Rugby and that this view is supported by musculoskeletal evaluation and/or other appropriate assessments;
  5. Written confirmation from a coach with an appropriate understanding of the physical attributes required and of the risks to players in Elite Adult Rugby and to whom the player is known that the player has the requisite skills and experience to play Elite Adult Rugby; and
  6. Such other consents, agreements or confirmations (if any) as may be required by the player’s home Union or to comply with the local jurisdiction.

Acceptable practice is for Under 19 players but not Under 18 players to play Elite Adult Rugby in any position including the front row. 

In such circumstances, the following should be considered for inclusion within a Union's Policy:

  1. Written agreement from the player in writing to play Elite Adult Rugby in the front row and acceptance of any associated risk of playing with Adults who may be stronger and more physically developed than them.
  2. Written confirmation from a medical practitioner with an understanding of the demands of Elite Rugby to whom the player is known that the player is in a physical condition to play Elite Adult Rugby in the front row and that this view is supported by a musculoskeletal evaluation and/or other appropriate assessments;
  3. Written agreement from a medical officer with an understanding of the demands of Elite Rugby employed or retained by the player’s home union that the player is in a physical condition to play Elite Adult Rugby in the front row and that this view is supported by musculoskeletal evaluation and/or other appropriate assessments;
  4. Written confirmation from a coach with an appropriate understanding of the physical attributes required and of the risks to players in Elite Adult Rugby and to whom the player is known that the player has the requisite skills and experience to play Elite Adult Rugby in the front row; and
  5. It is recognized that the front row (prop and hooker) in Rugby potentially carries an increased risk of injury with respect to the scrum. It is therefore recommended that a more rigid process and criteria for these positions be applied in this situation. It is possible that Unions may introduce some form of strength assessment and or investigation into physical capacity of players in this situation.
  6. Such other consents, agreements or confirmations (if any) as may be required by the player’s home Union or to comply with the local jurisdiction.
 

A player should not, under any circumstances, play Elite Adult Rugby in the front row if they are eligible to play Under 18 Age Grade Rugby.

Best practice in the event that an Under 18 player has been cleared to play Elite Adult Rugby (and also in the case of an Under 19 being cleared to play in the front row) is for the following to be kept:

  1. A full permanent record of the process undertaken and the consents, confirmations and agreements sought and obtained in relation to each player; and
  2. If so reasonably required by World Rugby (or if required by the organiser of a competition in which the player is to take part) to provide certification or evidence of the process that has been undertaken and the consents agreements and confirmations obtained in accordance with the recommendations set down in the acceptable practice above.

Community/Participation Adult Rugby

The Union having jurisdiction over the Community Game in its territory shall decide having regard to safety, player welfare and local conditions and circumstances on the policy, regulations and/or guidelines applicable if Under 18 players are to be permitted to play Participation/Community Adult Rugby.

Memorandum on Age Grade Rugby Players

To: Secretaries / Chief Executive Officers of Unions and Regional Associations in Membership of World Rugby

AGE GRADE RUGBY PLAYERS

The Council, at its recent Annual Meeting agreed that 90 minutes be adopted as the maximum playing time permitted in one day for Age Grade Rugby Players.

In association with the above decision the Council also agreed that Unions be requested to ensure that Unions engaging in Age Grade Rugby consider their duty of care and that all necessary safety requirements are adhered to.

Yours sincerely,

Hugh H. Penman
Head of Council and Member Services

6th May 2004