"The modern game of rugby is evolving very quickly and there is no question that today's players are bigger, faster and stronger. The point of contact at the tackle is now more physical, the speed of players to the tackle is exceptional and the fight for possession at the tackle is very confrontational," stated IRB Chairman, Dr Syd Millar.
"The injury suffered by Brian O'Driscoll during the First Test of the British and Irish Lions tour against New Zealand has drawn attention to these issues along with other incidents which have been occurring on the field. The entire rugby community, including the IRB, is sorry that Brian suffered serious injury in the match and the IRB is determined that, to the best of its ability, such incidents do not occur again."
"The IRB remains committed to ensuring rugby is free from foul and illegal play and that injury risk is minimised. In this context the IRB has and is implementing several proactive initiatives including: prioritising research into player injuries and the tackle area; the global application of Regulation 17 and its recommended sanctions; the appointment of an IRB Medical Officer; and hosting a medical conference charged with finding consistency of injury definition across the game,"
"Even though the IRB has a four year moratorium between Rugby World Cups in terms of law changes this does not stop us reviewing the appropriateness of certain laws and ensuring the laws are refereed and applied correctly. There is no doubt that the tackle and post tackle area of the game cause most discussion among those in the game and the IRB is keen to ensure that areas such as cleaning out, offside at the breakdown and dangerous tackling are properly policed according to the Laws of the game. "
"The annual Lensbury meeting of international referees is the appropriate forum to address the current issues we have on the field. The conference agenda was drawn up a couple of weeks ago, and I believe the conference will greatly assist in setting the appropriate guidelines for the next 12 months," added Dr Millar.
The Referees at the Lensbury Conference will be told that dangerous tackling, including the tackle commonly known as the 'spear' tackle - is to be treated at the upper end of the IRB recommended sanctions for offences within the playing enclosure, and offenders dealt with severely. The message from the IRB is that this type of dangerous tackle is totally unacceptable in the game as is the illegal taking out of players off the ball.
Under Regulation 17 the recommended upper end sanction for a dangerous tackle is three months. The maximum sanction is six months.
Mike Cron, All Black Scrum coach, will address the referees on scrum management and the other main area to be looked at during the two-day conference will be the Lineout, now a very contestable area that has brought its own problems for the referee to control.