World Rugby chief executive Brett Gosper has warned teams taking part at the World Cup they risk “sanctions” for failing to comply with concussion protocols but stopped short of saying sides would be thrown out of the tournament for flouting rules regarding head injuries.
With a month to go until the start of the showpiece tournament in England, Gosper said the global governing body would be vigilant in trying to counter-act any attempt by teams to rush players back too quickly from concussion.
“We have a series of sanctions at our disposal to act as a deterrent against non-compliance,” Gosper said Tuesday.
But asked if teams would be disqualified for breaking rules regarding concussion, an increasingly hot topic in rugby union after a series of high-profile cases, Gosper said: “No, no: it’s unlikely that would happen.
“We think there will be compliance anyway.
“Everyone knows this is a very serious and important subject, and we’re dealing with a medical area.
“We don’t envisage misuse of the protocols that we have, but we think it’s important to state that non-compliance will be sanctioned, because this is a very important area for us,” added the 56-year-old Australian, who played club rugby for Melbourne and then historic French side Racing Club de France which is now Racing-Metro.
Wales wing George North is only just back in contention for a Test return after being sidelined since March with concussion injuries.
Meanwhile England full-back Mike Brown had serious problems after being knocked out in a 47-17 Six Nations win over Italy at Twickenham on February 14.
Both their cases came after the highly controversial decision by Australian medical staff to let a still clearly concussed George Smith return to the field during the Wallabies’ third Test defeat by the British and Irish Lions in 2013 — an incident that led to a tightening up of regulations regarding player welfare.
“I’m very proud of what all our team, medical staff and the unions within the game have done,” said Gosper of changes made since the Smith case.
“It’s been recognised by other world federations that we are taking the lead in this area and many of them are coming to us to use our protocols and use the knowledge we’ve gathered.”