Top 14 to introduce 12 replacements and blue cards for concussion as part of new safety measures
The Ligue Nationale de Rugby (LNR) have announced four new measures to be introduced next season in the Top 14, including the use of up to 12 replacements and a new 'blue card'.
The new measures are the result of a medical conference back in March between the LNR and the French Rugby Federation (FFR) which resulted in 45 recommendations being made.
Four measures will now be introduced in the Top 14 and ProD2, France's second division, from the start of the season, subject to approval from World Rugby.
A new '12 replacements' rule, adding an extra four to the current eight, will permit teams to send players who have been tactically replaced back onto the field permanently in the five following situations: to replace an injured player, for a player who requires treatment for bleeding, for a player who requires an HIA (Head Injury Assessment) and to replace a yellow or red-carded front row player (props and hookers).
The fifth and final situation where a tactically replaced player can return to the field will be if the referee has shown a blue card, having determined that a player has suffered a concussion and therefore permanently needs to leave the field.
Blue cards were trialed last season in France's men's third division, the Federeale 1, and in the leading women's competition the Top 8, and have also been used in Australian club rugby.
Temporary replacements for HIAs and blood do not count as part of the 12 replacement rule. The final two measures introduced by the LNR concern an increased medical presence at clubs during non-match days and the position of medical staff closer to the field of play during matches.
The Top 14 this week have also announced their fixtures for the new season. Champions Castres begin their title defence away from home against last season's beaten finalists, Montpellier.
Promoted side Perpignan open their account at home to Stade Francais, now coached by former Springbok head coach Heyneke Meyer, with fellow newcomers Grenoble away at La Rochelle.
Toulon, who will be without Chris Ashton next season but have announced the signing of Julian Savea, kick their campaign off at home to Champions Cup finalists Racing 92.