English Rugby
Andrew issues injury toll warning
Scrum.com
November 27, 2009
RFU director of elite rugby Rob Andrew flanked by England manager Martin Johnson, Twickenham, England, November 20, 2009
RFU director of elite rugby Rob Andrew and England manager Martin Johnson have had to weather a storm of criticisim in the last few weeks © Getty Images
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Rugby Football Union elite boss Rob Andrew believes the current injury toll is "unsustainable" in the long-term future of the game and has urged the International Rugby Board to take immediate action.

England's preparations for their autumn international series were wrecked by an unprecedented amount of injuries and manager Martin Johnson was forced to name a revised Elite Player Squad on the eve of their opening clash with Australia after 12 players were struck down. The side that lined up against the Wallabies was missing 10 of the team which had started their last Six Nations fixture in March while the an internal audit has revealed that around 40% of both England's senior squad and the Saxons squad were unavailable for all or part of the November international period.

Andrew, the RFU's director of elite rugby, said the number of injured players in the English game is up from an average of 25% to nearer 30%. He has also 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% 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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