IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "Today's announcement further underlines our collective commitment to a progressive approach on all medical issues, not just for player welfare, but also for the wider image of the game as we look to grow rugby around the world.
"The IRB Medical Conference at Twickenham last November provided an innovative inaugural forum to bring together Union medical officers, playing representatives and invited independent experts to discuss a range of key issues, consider specific research and analysis, exchange views and form recommendations for the IRB to focus on through its Medical Strategic Plan.
"A key outcome was the need for a collaborative approach to developing player welfare strategies through combined injury data analysis, information sharing, education and policy development.
"Since the Medical Conference, the IRB has collaborated with its Member Unions on the roll-out of headline strategies to ensure the best-possible techniques for playing, coaching, officiating and administrating the game are promoted and implemented at all levels of the game."
The expert groups will comprise Union medical representatives, independent medical experts and playing representatives and will consider the latest global research and analysis, advise and inform on all aspects of their specialist areas and drive policy making in accordance with the IRB Medical Strategic Plan to ensure that the game collectively continues to put its players first.
Promoting stakeholder involvement across all Member Unions, the IRB has also launched a dedicated Player Welfare and Medical extranet site that will enable Unions to access the latest documentation, information, injury audits and key project notes to assist with key strategy delivery and the promotion of cross-Union information sharing.
IRB MEDICAL WORKING GROUPS:
Concussion Working Group: To advise the IRB on best practice in the area of on-field or sideline evaluation of acute concussion and return to play protocols and to review current IRB regulations with a view to incorporating Zurich consensus statement.
Spinal Cord Injuries Working Group: To advise the IRB on the development of catastrophic injury policy. To include: Injury surveillance; immediate emergency management; development of injury prevention programmes and dealing with acute/catastrophic injuries.
Members: Dr M. England (RFU), C. Basso (UAR), Dr C. Bagate (FFR), Dr S. Targett (NZRU), Dr M. Raftery (ARU), Dr C. McCarthy (IRFU), Dr J. Robson (SRU), Dr C. Redhead (SARU), Prof C. Fuller (University of Nottingham), Dr M. Molloy, M. Harrington (both IRB)
Implementation Working Group: To advise the IRB on implementation strategies, to assist with programme development and piloting.
Members: Dr S. Targett (NZRU), Dr C. McCarthy (IRFU), Dr M. England (RFU), Dr C. Bagate (FFR), Dr M. Raftery (ARU), Prof C. Boreham (University College Dublin), Rob Nicol (IRPA), Dr M. Molloy, M. Harrington (both IRB)
It was agreed at the Medical Conference that the IRB's Injury Definition Consensus Protocol be employed by Unions to ensure that training and playing injuries are recorded uniformly to provide comparative data.
This collaborative approach will enable Unions to identify the sources of injury and provide data and information that will enable the IRB to take an ongoing global approach to injury prevention.
The second IRB Medical Conference will take place in November 2010 and will be attended by independent medical experts, Union medical officials, playing representatives and refereeing representatives.