IRB to seek solution to rising injury toll and excessive kicking

Rugby's governing body to host conference in Dublin next month in attempt to address major problems afflicting the sport
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The Independent Online

The International Rugby Board will host a conference in Dublin next month to address global concerns over the way the game is being played and refereed. Leading coaches, referees and administrators from the world's top 20 ranked nations will debate five key issues which have emerged following a survey of all 117 IRB member nations.

The central theme is "global playing trends" with the delegates to discuss the tackle/ruck area, excess kicking and scrum collapses/resets. The physicality of the modern game and player welfare is also on the agenda along with the IRB's current law-making process.

IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "The object of the two-day conference is to take stock of the game and holistically consider global playing trends as we embark upon an exciting and pivotal decade for the sport which includes Rugby Sevens Olympic Games debut in Rio in 2016 and the next three Rugby World Cups.

"The conference will provide a forum for leading technical experts and playing representatives from around the world to gather to exchange information, discuss playing and coaching techniques and trends, currency of law and player welfare considerations."

The conference is not a decision-making forum but any recommendations which emerge from the session, which will be held on 14-15 May, will be put to the IRB's committee at their October meeting. The IRB held its first such conference at Woking in 2007 and a number of recommendations were made, including that a place be found for Argentina in an annual international tournament. The Pumas are set to join an expanded Tri-Nations in 2012.

Meanwhile, the Bulls and Cheetahs have been given the go-ahead from South Africa's government to complete the remainder of their regular Super 14 calendar at Loftus Versfeld and Free State Stadium respectively despite fears for the state of the pitches ahead of the football World Cup.

Representatives from the two unions along with South African Rugby Union (SARU) president, Oregan Hoskins, yesterday met the chairman of the parliamentary portfolio committee on sport, Butana Komphela, to discuss the state of the pitches at the two grounds ahead of this summer's football World Cup. The Cheetahs still have three games at their stadium.

Defending champions Bulls, one of the favourites to again reach the play-offs, have already had to make contingency plans should they qualify for a home semi-final and final, with those games set to be played at the Orlando Stadium in Soweto. The announcement was a landmark move for South Africa – a predominantly white sport being moved to a black area.

Elsewhere in the Super 14, Dan Carter and loose forward Kieran Read will return to the Crusaders side for the first of their three away matches against the Western Force in Perth on Friday night. Although the XV will not be named until the team arrives in Perth today, Crusaders head coach Todd Blackadder confirmed after a training run in Christchurch yesterday afternoon that both Carter (hip joint) and Read (shoulder) had recovered from injuries that kept them out of the Cheetahs match last Saturday.

Blackadder also declared that while All Blacks half-back Andy Ellis was over his concussion, the No 9 jersey would be worn by in-form Kahn Fotuali'i and Read, after playing his last four games at No 8, would revert to the blindside flank to allow Thomas Waldrom to continue to start at the base of the scrum.

Blackadder said the selections reflected form. "Kahn's been on fire and we're rewarding those guys who do play well when they come into the starting line-up. He's taken his opportunities well and that's taking nothing away from Andy [Ellis] whatsoever," he said.

The two players to miss the match in Perth and two in South Africa against the Stormers and the Bulls are three-quarter Kade Poki, who has a hamstring tear, and All Blacks lock Isaac Ross, who is out of favour.