Concussion a top concern for players' union
IRUPA chief executive Omar Hassanein has revealed that the players' union have met with representatives of the NFL to discuss growing concerns around concussion in rugby.
In the wake of the multi-million dollar settlement agreed by the American football bosses and their former players, the issue of head injuries is a hot topic in rugby circles after a number of high-profile incidents at the end of last season.
Brian O'Driscoll recently admitted that his generation of players will be test cases for those to come given the short time rugby has been professional, but with examples from the USA and Australia of former players having serious problems after retirement, Hassanein acknowledged that the issue is one that they are keeping a close eye on on behalf of their members.
"Naturally we're concerned, it is high on our priority list and has been for some time," he said.
"The one thing I do want to point out is that the gains that have been made by the sport and the IRB generally in the case of concussion over the past years have been significant.
"I don't think we should look at the individual cases like a George Smith (against the Lions), where perhaps judgment wasn't right, to immediately draw the conclusion that we have the wrong protocols.
"The protocols that we have around the return to play and pitchside assessment are, we believe, a significant step forward."
Hassanein was speaking at the union's announcement that Rob Kearney would replace Jonny Sexton as chairman, while the Racing Metro out-half would remain on the board.
Setting out the organisation's objectives for the coming year, the Australian said one key issue that needs addressing is the regulation of the agent market here.
"The main benefits (of regulation) are to ensure consistency, to ensure the agents are educated and understand the market. If there are changes to the standard player contract, or there's changes to foreign player policy or to anything to do with contracting, the agent needs to be kept abreast of those ongoing changes," he said.
"With us being the collective body that has discussion with the IRFU all the time, then we're naturally the body to deliver that type of programme.
"You don't want a scheme that's overly heavy-handed but what you do want is a scheme that ensures that everyone understands the boundaries of what is acceptable behaviour as an agent, how you should be treating your player and how you should be engaging in your profession.
"We're just about to launch the programme via Simon Keogh, who's our operations and legal manager here, and we're very confident that it will go very successfully. We have the strong buy-in of the IRFU and the buy-in of all the agents and we're ready to move it forward."