World Rugby and the Rugby World Cup have announced new measures to protect player welfare during the 2023 edition of the competition.
New measures have been introduced following calls from player unions pressured the Union into considering welfare problems that could be incurred in the tournament, that is set to take place in France.
The Rugby World Cup board held a meeting last week to confirm that the final would be held on October 8, meaning that the competition would last a week longer than originally planned, to allow for the pool stage and minimum five-day rest periods for all competing nations.
The message from governing bodies was that tight-turnarounds would no longer be accepted between round-robin fixtures, which have been seen in past World Cups.
On Monday, a letter from Alan Gilpin, World Rugby's interim chief executive, read: "Over the last few weeks, we received strong representations from International Rugby Players and its representatives on the RWCL Board that a minimum five-day rest period between all matches is a priority issue from a player welfare perspective, and that players will not tolerate the shorter rest periods for future tournaments. We have therefore had to address this for 2023."
Another measure that will be introduced is tournament squad sizes, which will increase from 31 to 33 players to allow for more rotation amongst the squad and minimising travel, helping to achieve their goals of protecting player welfare.
However, an extension to the length of time the World Cup is played over has caused controversy among some unions, including English officials from the RFU who released a statement, which read: "The RFU received late notification from World Rugby that there is a proposal to extend Rugby World Cup 2023 by seven days.
"The RFU is aligned with initiatives to improve player welfare. However, we believe more discussion is required to consider all options and the potential impact on clubs.
"As no decision has yet been made, the RFU has asked World Rugby to allow more time for further consultation on this matter."
Premiership Rugby added: "Premiership Rugby hasn’t been consulted over this proposal from World Rugby and we would expect time to consider it properly before any decision is made."
Author: Jake Wilkin