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Innovation

Law 4 Innovations

Law 4 of the Laws of the Game (and its corollary Regulation 12 of the Regulations Relating to the Game) permit and prohibit certain equipment in order to protect Player Welfare and the fundamental essence of the game of rugby union. The Regulations flow from the Laws which are the central document which set out the identifying features, skills, equipment, values and Player Welfare requirements of the Game.  Without the Laws there would be no Regulations or indeed a Game. The Laws are regularly reviewed by the Laws Review Group and the Rugby Committee. 

For information on World Rugby's Law 4 Headgear Trial, information is available here.

World Rugby are committed to promoting best practice for Player Welfare within the game and welcome innovative thinking on equipment that can be used by players to further Player Welfare and Game Development aspects of Rugby. Where those innovations do not comply with Law 4 (and by extension Regulation 12) they are not ordinarily permitted to be used during Matches.  In such cases, applications supported by detailed scientific evidence as part of an extensive research plan (as further set out below), the Rugby Committee may consider whether the innovation is likely to further the objectives of Player Welfare and Game Development.   

Any recommendation from the Rugby Committee to the Executive Committee, that an innovation be taken forward to a controlled live trial will be based upon a detailed consideration of the benefit of the innovation to the Game including, in particular, those key objectives of Player Welfare and Game Development.  Where a trial of an innovation, which would not otherwise be permitted by Law 4, is approved by the Executive Committee the specific terms of that trial which derogate from Law 4 (and by extension Regulation 12) will apply to that trial for the period the trial is approved. 

The following details must be in place prior to any application for trial being considered:

Project Support 

  • The use of the innovation(s) and supporting research project must have the backing of at least one World Rugby Member Union. 
  • At least one club registered with the supporting Member Union(s) must also be in support of the project. 

Research Project 

  • A full research project plan with clear outcomes and objectives stated within it, along with specific timelines, must be submitted for review by World Rugby. 
  • Ethical approval must be received from an Institutional Ethics Committee related to the project. The World Rugby Institutional Ethics Committee shall not be used for this purpose. 
  • Proposals must be accompanied with empirical evidence demonstrating that the innovation(s) poses no increased risk of injury to players. 
  • The use of the innovation(s) must align itself with Rugby’s values and existing objectives. 

Indemnities and Consents 

  • An indemnity, as specified by World Rugby, from the supporting World Rugby Member Union(s) must be received. 
  • An indemnity, as specified by World Rugby, from the supporting club(s) or tournament organiser(s) must be received. 
  • Consent forms signed by all players (and/or match officials as applicable) participating in the trial must be received. 
  • Consent forms from all opposing players and teams for the innovation(s) to be used in matches involving them must be received. 

Additional conditions for the use of shoulder padding with sensors 

  • The device must provide data that assists World Rugby in describing specific activities within the game not normally achievable through other means. 
  • The devices must comply fully with the relevant requirements of Regulation 12 for shoulder padding except for (a) the requirement prohibiting sandwiched construction and (b) the overall density of the device when the sensor is in situ. In lieu of these requirements, the following testing must be undertaken and the requirements met: 
  • No more than 3 layers can be used with the outer layers (top and bottom) being the exact same material and thickness (±10%) 
  • The middle layer (sensor) must be no thicker than 2mm (±0.1mm) 
  • Testing for impact attenuation must be undertaken under the following conditions and continue to comply with the requirements of Clause 5.4.1 of Regulation 12: 
    1. Full device as intended to be worn (impact on top layer) 
    2. Full device with surfaces reversed (impact on bottom layer) 
    3. Device with no middle layer (sensor) 
  • Any storage or transmitting device must also comply with the requirements for Player Monitoring Devices as described in Regulation 12. 
  • The combined density of the device without the sensor must not exceed the requirements of Regulation 12. 

Other aspects 

  • The trial will only be permitted for a specific length of time and will not be open ended. 
  • Trials will only be valid for those teams and competitions included in the proposal submitted. 
  • Extensions to the trial timeline, or increases to the teams/tournaments involved in the trial, will be treated as a new application (information submitted at the initial application may be resubmitted). 
  • Trials can only be granted by the World Rugby Executive Committee which meets in May and November each year. 
  • All data collected as part of the trial will be made available to World Rugby as per a schedule to be arranged prior to the trial commencing and detailed reports must be provided to World Rugby at such intervals as requested. This must include a final report. 
  • World Rugby reserves the right to request additional relevant information from applicants as part of the application assessment process. 
  • World Rugby reserves the right to suspend or terminate a trial for any reason. 
  • Participation in the application process does not constitute permission to trial any innovation(s) which does not comply with Law 4 and Regulation 12. 

Queries on this process should be sent to research@worldrugby.org.  

For further information on World Rugby’s commitment to Player Welfare please visit our Player Welfare site.

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