The world's top rugby players are getting smashed up because of law changes according to a British study.

What works for the spectators may not be working in the players' interests. More high speed collisions are leading to more serious injuries according to the report commissioned by the England union.

The Telegraph reported "the spike in the number of high-profile injuries sustained by Premiership players could have been a result of the introduction of the global law changes, which has led to a more 'attritional' form of rugby".

Data from five rounds of the England premiership showed law changes were increasing the number of tackles and first-man clear-outs of rucks. The average number of tackles per match has risen from 150 to 167. The average number of 'involvements' in games, which can also increase the risk of injury, increased from 850 to 925.

Advertisement

England's director of professional rugby Nigel Melville said: "The ball is in play for longer but only by 26 seconds, which is not massively significant.

"Then we looked at different areas of the game and what we are finding that there is quite a big rise in 'involvements' - more touches on the ball for example, and 11 per cent more tackles being. Passes are also up.

"When we started to dig down a little deeper into that and what we found that teams are doing different things with the ball.

"The contact area is virtually not being challenged and there are fewer people in it and more players becoming defenders. If you reduce the contest for the ball at the ruck, you increase the number of defenders which puts the defenders on the front foot and puts more pressure on the attackers.

"So the attacking side is now getting more of the ball but also facing a greater number of defenders and we are therefore seeing more tackles. What we are seeing is a reduction for the contest for the ball...more people are available in the defensive line which makes it more attritional.

"We have got less of a contest at the contact area and less competition in scrums and maybe that is causing more injuries."

Amendments included changes to the ruck/tackle and scrum laws aimed at simplifying those areas. Ironically, aims included improving player welfare. Another objective was to keep the ball in play more often.

England will present the data to World Rugby.