IRB to ponder rule changes

ENGLAND chiefs insist they would support changes in the rules to make the game safer, following a litany of injuries to Test stars.<br /><br />National team boss Martin Johnson was deprived of a host of regulars ahead of the <br />autumn internationals, while at any one time around a quarter of Premiership players are <br />in the treatment room.<br />World governing body the IRB is set to discuss the issue when its council meets today, and Martyn Thomas, the head of English chiefs the RFU, believes changes must be considered.<br /><br />&ldquo;At all costs we&rsquo;ll do what we can to protect players. The rise in injuries is not acceptable,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />&ldquo;We can&rsquo;t just shut our eyes. We have the ability to change laws. If the medics and experts say there is a problem then the RFU will take a look at it. The crucial thing is player welfare and the impact the injuries are having on the game, apart from a moral issue, of course.&rdquo;<br /><br />The IRB has been resistant to changing the rules before the 2011 World Cup, but Thomas says the introduction of the &ldquo;crouch, touch, pause, engage&rdquo; command shows that exceptions can be made, for the good of the game.<br /><br />&ldquo;We said we&rsquo;re not going to change the laws this side of the World Cup, but we have to be open, look at the laws and look at the impact they&rsquo;re having on the game,&rdquo; said Thomas. &ldquo;We changed the scrum law because we were concerned for player welfare. The RFU has got a pretty good record for lobbying.&rdquo;<br /><br />The IRB is also set to discuss whether the game&rsquo;s laws need to be changed to address the recent lack of tries and increase in kicking at Test level, amid concerns it is damaging the sport&rsquo;s appeal.<br /><br />