Rugby stars who make contact with opponent's heads face stiff new punishments after the sport's governing body World Rugby looked to reduce the number of concussions which are blighting the game.

Anyone found guilty of making contact with another player's head, either recklessly or intentionally, will face a minimum one month ban, while the worst cases of stamping on the head could now fetch a one-year suspension.

Concussion is the most common injury suffered by professional rugby players and World Rugby has been heavily criticised in recent weeks for failing to punish reckless high tackles despite an edict being issued before the autumn series promising harsher penalties.

Last week All Black flanker Sam Cane was cleared of an illegally making contact with Robbie Henshaw's head, despite the Ireland centre being knocked unconscious in the collision, and World Rugby has moved to reinforce its commitment to reducing head injuries.

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'We know there is increased scrutiny of rugby's laws and regulations from fans and the media,' said World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont. 'Player welfare and upholding the values of the game are of paramount importance as we reach out to more men, women and children around the world.'

Christopher Quinlan QC has been appointed as the first Independent Judicial Panel chairman as part of a streamlined judicial process.