Dan Robson: England and Wasps scrum-half urges need for ‘middle line’ on contact in training

Dan Robson believes rugby needs to find an appropriate balance with contact sessions in training as player welfare comes back into the spotlight.

In an open letter to World Rugby, the Progressive Rugby group which includes former and current players cited reducing contact in training as one of their proposals to improve player safety and reduce the risk of injuries.

England scrum-half Robson has seen improvements in how clubs conduct contact sessions during his 11 years as a professional, but cautioned that going too far the other way would put players at risk of injury in matches due to not being prepared enough for the contact they face in games.

“It’s tough,” Robson said. “You can definitely go that way and then more injuries happen because the body is not used to that contact as much.

“You can’t just have that weekend be a shock to the system with guys running at you, and you putting your body on the line. There has got to be a middle line and from my time in rugby clubs have got better at that.

“Certainly, at Wasps the contact we do is a lot more controlled stuff, technique based. There are positives and negatives to both sides, and I don’t feel it will be as easy as saying ‘no contact in training’ and crack on.”

At present, Robson and his team-mates wear GPS trackers in training both with their clubs and on international which produce data over how much contact they face and the force of those impacts.

That is then studied by the team analysts, with the amount of contact individuals face in training dialled back if there are concerns over how much they are facing too much in any given week.

Reducing contact in training is seen as a way to mitigate against the risk of repeated head injuries which can lead to serious health problems later in life and Robson agrees as much as possible should be done to avoid players suffering concussions, he warned the risk will not be completely eliminated.

“We understand as players it is part and parcel of the game,” Robson said. “It’s a contact sport and, unfortunately, it’s going to happen – as much as we try to manufacture as many situations it doesn’t happen.

“As long as the players are on the same wavelength and understand that and are as safe as possible going into games with tackle technique or whatever that may be then we can reduce that as much as possible.

“It’s a difficult conversation, I understand at the minute, but as players we’ve got to do everything we can to be as safe as possible going out on the field and really put what we’re doing in the week into fruition at the weekend.”

The 28-year-old is now back training with the England squad ahead of next week’s Six Nations clash with Wales, with him and his international team-mates having been given the opportunity to spend time with their family before returning to the national team bubble.

Robson has featured off the replacements bench in both of England’s opening Six Nations games, with Eddie Jones starting Ben Youngs at No. 9 in the defeat to Scotland and win over Italy, and is doing all he can to put himself in a position to earn a start.

“Obviously we were pretty happy with how the Italy game went,” Robson said. “We got a bit more front-foot ball than the week before, which suited me a bit better.

“It’s my job, I’ve had pretty good chats with Eddie and whatever role I’m given I’ve got to add. Especially if I’m coming off the bench, as a finisher we’ve been given that licence to add something and really change the game.

“That’s all I’ve got to do, so for me it’s just about keep working hard and if I get that opportunity to start I’ll enjoy that as well.”

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