Male rugby players given permission to wear tights and leggings amid artificial pitch fears

·4-min read
Male rugby players given permission to wear tights and leggings amid artificial pitch fears - RFU COLLECTION VIA GETTY IMAGES
Male rugby players given permission to wear tights and leggings amid artificial pitch fears - RFU COLLECTION VIA GETTY IMAGES

Male rugby players at all levels of the game have been given permission to wear tights during matches.

The law amendment, which also includes the wearing of leggings, comes into immediate effect after a ruling by World Rugby’s executive committee.

Previously only female players were allowed to do so, but Law 4, which covers players’ clothing, is being extended to apply extended to their male counterparts, as long as the tights or leggings meet the correct criteria.

The move is designed to reduce the risk of burns or abrasions during matches played on artificial surfaces, but the testosterone-filled environment of a male changing room, it remains to be seen how many players will take advantage of the new law.

The news will no doubt be welcomed by many Premiership players however, given the concern previously raised by the Rugby Players’ Association about the risk of friction burns as well as other injuries from playing on plastic surfaces.

Richard Bryan, the RPA’s rugby director, told Telegraph Sport in 2019 that the association had demanded a halt to the construction of artificial grass pitches at Premiership level after mounting concern.

England players Joe Marler and Jack Nowell are among high-profile players to have recently made public their opposition to playing on the surfaces.

There are four AGPs in the Gallagher Premiership at Saracens’ Allianz Park, Worcester Warriors’ Sixways, Newcastle Falcons’ Kingston Park and Gloucester’s Kingsholm Stadium.

World Rugby said the announcement had been made on “welfare and accessibility grounds” and reflects “the growing worldwide use of compliant artificial surfaces at both the elite and community levels”.

The organisation added: “With some players susceptible to abrasions on artificial surfaces, the decision gives players the option to wear tights or leggings as a preventative measure, maximising access to the game.”

World Rugby says it will also work with unions and registered artificial turf providers to ensure that “rigorous best-practice maintenance programmes are observed that minimise the risk of abrasions, particularly in relation to brushing and watering especially in hot conditions”.

Leggings are a necessity until there is a long-term solution to artificial surfaces

England prop Joe Marler cut to the point last month with a post on social media when he succinctly put: "Ban 4G pitches". The growing resentment towards artificial surfaces has come to the boil this season in the Premiership, with close to a third of the participating sides now using non-grass or part-grass pitches. Gloucester were the latest this summer, joining Worcester and Saracens and Newcastle.

The Falcons' boggy pitch at Kingston Park is now a distant memory, but such a move comes at a cost, mainly to the lower legs of players scraping the flesh off their knees on 4G pitches up and down the country on a weekly basis. Which is why World Rugby have now allowed men's players to follow women by giving them the option to wear tights or leggings during matches - 'cotton blend long tights or leggings, with single inside leg seam under their shorts and socks', to be precise.

While the sight of a 20-stone prop squeezing into some leggings and taking to the field might have previously been unimaginable, even a little comical, now they're a necessity. England back Jack Nowell recently addressed the issues stemming from 4G pitches in depth when talking on The Offload podcast.

“I can’t stand them," Nowell said. “It’s all about cuts. Anyone who doesn’t like them puts pictures of their cuts up. The cuts are brutal. It’s crazy. You get boys having skin grafts.

“Players aren’t able to train because their wounds are so badly opened and they’re not healing and they’re infected. It’s horrible."

Those taking umbrage with players wearing tights and leggings in matches - which for the record some players already wear in training - should really direct their ire at the damage done by the 4G surfaces themselves and call for a better long-term solution. Desso pitches - a hybrid of grass and artificial surfaces - are more expensive and not all clubs can afford them, yet they seem to create far fewer issues.

As for those players who have previously had to put up with friction burns, this news may well be cause for celebration.

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