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By Neale Harvey
Bath coach Toby Booth has urged Premiership Rugby to come clean over season structure changes amid an injury crisis that has left some top-flight squads at breaking point.
With amendments to breakdown laws resulting in increased ball-in-play time and contacts, concussions and contact injuries have reached epidemic proportions, making it impossible for teams like Bath, who recently had 19 front-line stars out injured, to manage squads.
Booth claims the number of contacts in a game has nearly doubled over the last five years and wants to see how Premiership Rugby intend addressing injury issues, with changes to season structure, potentially including mid-winter breaks, due to be introduced in 2019.
Booth told The Rugby Paper: “Across a five-year period we’ve been monitoring different aspects of the game and from 2013 to the current season there’s been a 44 per cent increase in contacts.
“Our average number of contacts per game last season was 600-650, with the highest being 806, but this year we’ve been over 800 six times and against Exeter we had 1,042 contacts, so you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to work out there will be more injuries.
“Our ball-in-play time has been up as high as 49 minutes and averages around 46 minutes, whereas five years ago we were at 33 minutes, so that’s a rise of over 30 per cent with the laws around the breakdown meaning the trend is moving more towards attack.
“Concussions now account for 40 per cent of injuries and while we’ve worked hard on reducing our soft tissue injuries, there’s been an increasing profile of contact injuries.
“We’re not the only club in this position and the question is where we’re going with all this?”
Booth is demanding answers on season structure, adding: “We need deeper, more resilient squads and a fully functioning academy and we’re obviously asking ourselves how we train to make players contact-ready without putting them at risk of further injury.
“We do minimal contact training at Bath and are working hard on preventing injuries through prehab and rehab, but it’s a huge challenge and we all need to know what’s happening with the season structure before we can make decisions over squad sizes.
“I understand proposals are coming that, for the majority of players, will allow people to recover and not have so much weekly load put through them, but we need those proposals from Premiership Rugby quickly so we can keep working to ease the situation.”
Premiership Rugby were contacted by TRP and confirmed they remain locked in talks with the RFU and Rugby Players’ Association, with no announcement date set.
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