World Rugby has recommended a maximum of 15 minutes of full-contact training per week ©Getty Images

World Rugby and players' union the International Rugby Players (IRP) have published new contact-training guidance aimed at reducing injury risk and supporting player welfare.

The guidance has received strong support from national players’ associations, national unions, international and domestic competitions, top coaches and clubs, it is claimed.

The new guidelines sets out an advised weekly limit of 15 minutes full-contact training, 40 minutes of controlled contact and 30 minutes of live set-piece training.

The introduction follows global consultation, including feedback from almost 600 players across elite men’s and women’s competitions, and input from strength and conditioning, medical and performance professionals.

In addition, it will be underpinned by a review and research programme to drive continual learning and improvement for short- and long-term player safety.

"This important body of work reflects our ambition to advance welfare for players at all levels of the game," said World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin.

"Designed by experts, these guidelines are based on the largest study of contact training in the sport, developed by some of the best rugby, performance and medical minds in the game.

"We believe that by moderating overall training load on an individualised basis, including contact in season, it is possible to enhance both injury-prevention and performance outcomes, which is good for players, coaches and fans."

Clermont Auvergne are one of the teams to have agreed to participate in a trial to monitor the guidelines' effectiveness ©Getty Images
Clermont Auvergne are one of the teams to have agreed to participate in a trial to monitor the guidelines' effectiveness ©Getty Images

Elite club teams, including Leinster, Clermont Auvergne and Benetton Treviso, have signed up to a trial measuring their training and match contact using instrumented mouthguards to monitor effectiveness and inform future advancements.

The Prevent Biometics mouthguard assesses the mechanism, incidence and intensity of head impacts.

The guidelines are in line with World Rugby's six-point plan, released in July, aiming to cement rugby as the most progressive sport for athlete welfare.

That came after a group of players launched legal action against World Rugby, England's Rugby Football Union and the Welsh Rugby Union last year over an alleged failure to protect them.

Among the claimants is former England international Steve Thompson, who is suffering from early onset dementia at the age of just 42.

The former hooker claimed he cannot remember winning the World Cup with England in 2003 after repeated blows to the head.

A high proportion of all injuries, 35 to 40 per cent, during a season occur during training, research shows.