New age-weight dispensation rules will be rolled across Australia in 2018, Rugby Australia announced on Friday.

Junior players between 10 and 15 who fall outside a specific height and weight range, below or above will be independently assessed to determine which age group they should play in.

Previously, players could be moved two age groups up or one age group down from their true age and there was no standard method for determining this.

The method, established after a two-year study in partnership with Sydney Junior Rugby Union, the Brumbies and Australian Catholic University, is based on the idea that weight is not the only determinant of where a player should play.

Rugby Australia head of rugby services Lachlan Clark said the initiative would help put players in the right environment.

“The changes we have made with our size and age guidelines are aimed at making the game safer and more enjoyable for all participants, while staying true to the value that Rugby is a game for people of all shapes and sizes,” he said.

“In every age group, there are exceptional cases where a junior player might be better suited to playing up or down a grade, and we now have a structured process to ensure those players are playing at a level that best suits their physical and personal development.

“This is the culmination of a review which has been two years in the making and is backed by an extensive research project, which we believe puts Australia at the forefront of world Rugby in this area.”

On top of these changes, Rugby AU is also expanding the blue card concussion program, which takes players off the ground for a medical check and set return to play rules if they are suspected of having concussion.

This will feature across Australia from U13 to the NRC in 2018.

“The Blue Card system will be in place across all Rugby nationally from under 13 to National Rugby Championship (NRC) level, enhancing Rugby’s commitment to protecting players from the rare occurrence of concussion,” Clark said.

“There will be ongoing structured education of match officials, medical attendants, coaches and  team managers in the signs and symptoms and management of concussion.

“Our commitment to protect players from head injuries is reinforced with strict high tackle laws with the understanding that the head is sacred across all levels of the game.

“The blue card system reinforces that player safety is paramount in our game.”

http://www.rugby.com.au/8d3ab05c-f25b-4bb6-808c-5dd818336073