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English rugby to introduce mandatory in-season breaks in major boost to player welfare

The RFU has released information on new measures being taken to reduced player burnout and injury which will be introduced for the next three seasons.

Starting from next season, top-level rugby in England will see an imposed limit of 35 matches (longer than 20 minutes game-time) involvement by players per season. While England internationals will be restricted to 30, two fewer than it currently stands.

The RFU, Premiership Rugby and RPA have jointly-participated in forming the plans which will see the Premiership finale moved to June instead of May and the start of the new season due to begin no sooner than 12 weeks later.

“This is very much a partnership and this domestic season structure has been a collaboration between the RFU, Premiership Rugby and the RPA,” said RFU chief executive Steve Brown.

The Premiership final’s shift to a June dates of the 20th, 26th and 18th for the next three seasons means England’s summer tour schedule will now move to July and players who tour will still be entitled to a minimum five-week rest period.

Premiership Rugby chief executive Mark McCafferty commented: “The professional game continues to develop quickly and we’ve worked extremely hard with the RPA and RFU over the last 18 months to achieve a number of progressive goals for the English structure over the next three seasons; building in new player management approaches, reducing overlaps and scheduling more of Gallagher Premiership Rugby for the better weather conditions of spring and early summer.”

The initiatives announcement go so far as to the next British & Irish Lions tour in South Africa in 2021. England players picked to take on the Springboks will be entitled to a one-week rest from the Red Roses’ autumn 2021 schedule off the back of a guaranteed ten-week break.

Without central contracts forming a part of English rugby’s 15-a-side structure, a panel formed of representatives from the three body’s who drew up the plans will be formed to ‘monitor and ensure compliance’ from club’s and the England coaching team.

Announcement highlights:

  • Guaranteed in-season breaks for players in each of the three seasons.
  • Mandatory five-week post-season rest for all players which includes two weeks’ absolute rest and three weeks’ active rest
  • Minimum 10 weeks off/pre-season for England Senior Elite Player Squad (EPS) players (five weeks rest and five weeks preparation)
  • Minimum 12 weeks between Gallagher Premiership Rugby Final and Round 1 of the following Gallagher Premiership Rugby season
  • Maximum 35 match involvements (>20 minutes) in any one season for all players
  • Maximum 30 full game equivalents (reduced from 32) in any one season for all players
  • Premiership Rugby Cup structure to provide rest weeks for players with the most match time
  • England Senior EPS players to have a mandatory rest week if playing all international matches and more than 65% of total minutes (reduced from 80%) in the Quilter Internationals or Six Nations

In addition:

  • England Rugby World Cup squad rested for the summer Tests in July 2020 unless they have had 20 or fewer match involvements in the 2019-20 season
  • England players on the 2021 British and Irish Lions tour to have a rest week during the 2021 Autumn internationals
  • English Lions’ players to have 10 weeks break
  • Tri-partite panel with an independent chairman to monitor and ensure compliance with the principles and to decide on any individual exceptions

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