Wellington Rugby is heading into the blue to protect its players from the ongoing effects of concussion.
Starting this Saturday, referees in Wellington's College Sport premier one division will be able to issue a blue card to any player they suspect to have suffered a concussion.
And from June 11, the same rules will apply to the men's senior club premier and premier reserve grades during the second round of those competitions.
Players who receive a blue card must leave the field immediately and will then be formally subject to the existing minimum mandatory stand-down periods before they can return to play. Those are set at 21 days for senior players and 23 for those who are under 19.
WRFU head of community rugby Will Caccia-Birch said the blue card was designed to prevent players from retuning to training or playing before they had gained an appropriate medical clearance.
"A player's decision around when they are fit to train or play after a suspected head knock has often been left to their own judgement, or that of their own team's coaching or management staff. The blue card takes that responsibility out of their hands.
"Once the blue card is issued, Wellington Rugby can formally track a player's movements during their recovery. The player must gain a medical certificate from a health professional, and then provide it to the WRFU before they are eligible to return to the field."
Wellington Rugby has followed the lead of the Northland Rugby Union which trialled the blue card system in 2014.
New Zealand Rugby has now formally approved the blue card concussion initiative and Wellington is the first provincial union after Northland to officially introduce it to its competitions.
Blue card concussion initiative at a glance:
*Designed to enhance player safety and welfare
*Initiates a formal 'Return to Play' process for a player who has sustained a concussion or suspected concussion
*Player must leave the field and cannot return to play in the match
*Incident is recorded and reported to the Wellington Rugby Union
*Player must obtain a medical certificate and present it to their coach, manager or club representative in order to resume training
*Team coach/manager/club representative must then submit the medical certificate to Wellington Rugby Union and gain clearance before the player is eligible to resume play