A global trial that will restrict the ability of non-playing staff to enter the field during a match has been approved by the World Rugby Chiefs.
The dry run comes into effect for all competitions and standalone matches after July 1, meaning it will include summer tours involving England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, as well as the Women’s World Cup later this year and the Men’s World Cup in 2023.
World Rugby said the process “aims to improve the flow of play by reducing unnecessary stoppages without compromising welfare”.
It added that the process, approved by the World Rugby Council, follows a comprehensive review by the international governing body of the current elite rugby environment.
This included research into players’ hydration needs and the increasing disruption in play caused by multiple water carriers entering the field at each disruption.
Regarding medics, during the process they will only be able to provide water to players they are treating while they cannot catch or touch a ball if it is live in play or a penalty will be awarded.
In terms of extra staff, teams will be allowed up to two dedicated water carriers, while those individuals cannot be a rugby director or head coach, like the role South Africa boss Rassie Erasmus filled during last summer’s British and Irish Lions Test series.
In elite rugby, water carriers are only allowed onto the field of play twice per half on points agreed with the on-ice officials, and only during stoppages in play or after a try has been scored.
World Rugby added: “No one should approach, address or direct comments at match officials except medical professionals in relation to a player’s treatment. Should that happen, the sanction will be a penalty.”
World Rugby’s Chief Player Welfare and Rugby Services Officer Mark Harrington added: “A key aim of these trials is to help the game flow better without jeopardizing player welfare.
“We are taking concrete actions to improve the way rugby matches are run. This will be the first time teams can be sanctioned on the field by the actions of people not directly involved in the competition.
“We’ve had feedback from across the game that the number of non-player people disrupting the flow of the game is spiraling out of control.
“But we had to address the issue without compromising the players’ well-being and give them everything they need to play at the highest level.”