A top private Australian school is considering banning boys from playing rugby against some teams, fearing they could be seriously injured or even killed.

But in New Zealand, more children are lacing up their boots to play the national game.

At a time when the Queensland Reds are having one of their better seasons, the principal of Brisbane's St Joseph's College, Peter Chapman, is considering banning his students from playing rugby against teams that recruit talent from overseas.

He said the excessive size and strength of some schoolboy teams could result in injury to opposing players.

One of his colleagues went further, saying there could be a death on the paddock.

"With this process proceeding the way it is now, death is unavoidable," said the vice-chairman of Queensland's Great Public Schools association, Arthur Palmer.

Mr Palmer's warning came as the Courier-Mail found some of Australia's top private schools were recruiting talent from overseas on sports scholarships.

But former All Black fullback Glen Osborne said it was a "ridiculous situation".

"I wouldn't say they're scared Australians but maybe they've got a committee that's wrapping their kids in cotton wool ... if they think their teams are big they should see some of our school teams.

"Rugby is a contact sport so if they're scared of contact they should go and play soccer which is also a contact sport so if they're scared of that then maybe they should play netball," he said.

Despite soccer's surge in popularity - Football New Zealand says at least 50,000 children from 5 to 16 are playing the game - New Zealand Rugby Union figures show player numbers increased by 4 per cent last year from 2008.

One of the biggest increases was in the under-13 age group which had 6 per cent growth.

Counties Manukau Sport club development officer Barry George said rugby had become safer and more player-friendly because of weight-grade restrictions and programmes such as Rippa Rugby and Small Blacks.

And, despite a slight increase in rugby neck injuries last year, mostly from tackles, he doubted there would be any fatalities.

"I wouldn't think so - actually, I doubt it.

"I don't see an issue in the contact side of things at all ... the game these days is played at a much faster pace but it's all in the quality of the coaching, if you get the technique right and it's not all bash and crash."