Rugby World Cup 2021 will kick off this week, with the best rugby players in the world, supported by the most advanced player welfare standards ever delivered at a rugby event. 

Player welfare is World Rugby’s number one priority and the international federation is using the tournament to help improve the level of rugby specific, academic research on head impacts in the women. 

World Rugby’s approach to medical standards and support in New Zealand will see a number of new innovations implemented, including all teams having access to smart mouthguardsto help measure the frequency and nature of head impacts and validate the guidance on limits to contact training, all geared towards injury-prevention. The saliva of players will be tested to further understand how markers within the body may be impact by head impacts and concussion.  

Rugby World Cup will also be the first rugby tournament to have mental wellbeing support made available to all participants. This is in addition to the latest in-game concussion identification and management protocols as well as player and coach education.  

A dedicated focus on the women’s game is a key pillar of World Rugby’s six point plan on player welfare which seeks to make the sport the most progressive in the world when it comes to player welfare. 

World Rugby Chief Execuive Alan Gilpin said: 

“Rugby World Cup 2021 will raise the bar on player welfare standards at a Rugby World Cup and that is exactly as it should be.  World Rugby never stands still on player welfare and this tournament is yet another example of us putting those words into action. 

“Whether it is the latest technology such as smart mouthguards and saliva analysis, or making sure that coaches and players are supported in their mental health, Rugby World Cup 2021 will set new standards in this space, not just in rugby but in international sport more broadly.” 

World Rugby policy on player welfare in the women’s game is advised all year round by the Women’s Welfare Group chaired by Dr Araba Chintoh, a former Canada international, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Toronto and a Capgemini Women in Rugby leadership programme recipient. 

Dr Chintoh is leading the charge on the federation’s dedicated focus on women’s welfare, injury-prevention and mental wellbeing in rugby, and the initial work of the group will be on display at Rugby World Cup 2021 in New Zealand. 

Dr Chintoh said “Women’s welfare considerations are often very different to men and therefore we cannot approach them the same way. We are specifically looking at dedicated women’s research, education, laws advances and injury-prevention programmes. Our role is to both help protect and support women players. We have a knowledgeable and  passionate group of people and World Rugby are fully supportive. 

“This year alone, World Rugby has  invested more than £500,000 in five research projects, specifically focused on concussion, injury-prevention and former player health. This research will help us shape a better, safer and more accessible game that women, girls and boys want to play, and their parents want them to play too.”