The New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) will test a new plan to combat the effects of concussion at the national provincial championship this month.
The NZRU and the International Rugby Bureau (IRB) have today released plans for a new pitch-side protocol, or Pitch Side Concussion Assessment (PCSA), which will be trialled when the new ITM Cup kicks off on August 23.
Any suspicion of a head knock and the player will be assessed off the field over a five minute period.
Neil Sorensen, NZRU general manager, said the safety of rugby players at all levels of the game was critical.
"The PSCA trial complements our compulsory coaching and refereeing safety programme, RugbySmart, which focuses on ensuring safe technique across the game," he said.
Dr Martin Rafter, a former NRL, State of Origin and Wallabies doctor for 20 years, is at the forefront of the new rules in his role as chief medical officer at IRB.
"The evidence supporting that collision sports have a negative effect on cognitive function has been questioned by many scientists, however it is prudent to undertake these studies in order to broaden our understanding of concussion and ensure that we deliver the best possible player welfare framework for our athletes."
He said the safety and welfare of players was of "paramount importance for the IRB and its 118 Member Unions".
"As a sport, we have been driving forward concussion management development and best-practice policy over the past decade, but we can always do more to protect our athletes."
Long term side effects
A new study will also be undertaken into the long term health effects of a career in professional rugby.
The study will compare how the sport impacts on professional rugby players, community rugby players and non-contact elite sports players now in their 40s and 50s.
Former All Black Steve Devine continues to face the impact of concussion five years after retiring from professional rugby.
He suffered three years of daily migraines from repeated head knocks from years playing the hard-hitting sport.
Devine says he is pleased the game is taking positive steps to help aid players.
"I struggle now when I see head knocks, I struggle to look at them.
"I cringe when I see players stay on the field and return to the field, because I know it will eventually catch up with you."
He said he is most worried about club players and schoolboy rugby teams.
The players association carried out its own survey of 120 retired players, and nearly a third admitted suffering depression and anxiety issues in retirement.
"Doctors just thought I was depressed, and maybe I was," Devine said.
"But the links between the two for me were very similar, I have no doubt, no doubt (that concussion and depression are linked)."