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Ankle taps set to be banned under RFL’s new tackling laws

A number of proposed law changes have been accepted today by the RFL based on recommendations from the sport’s Brain Health and Clinical Advisory Group Sub-Committees, however one recommendation stands out more than others.

Plenty of the amendments surround the legal tackle height and the fact that it is set to be reduced, something that we’ve seen happen in rugby union and now the 13-player code follows suit.

There are also changes in which age groups can play contact rugby and those that should be limited to just tag or touch rugby instead, all with the clear focus of player safety being at the heart of it.

One peculiar potential change though focuses on ‘ankle tap’ style tackles, the 2017 World Cup final being infamous for the last gasp ankle tap on a rampaging Kallum Watkins.

Just after the hour mark in that World Cup final between England and Australia, with the score at 6-0 to the Aussies, Watkins made a line break but was brought down by the slightest of ankle taps from Josh Dugan.

The game remained without score for the final quarter of an hour and saw England lose out 6-0 in a nail-biter, Dugan’s ankle tap being the game winning play for the Australians.

It is now being proposed that the ankle tap be outlawed per these new rules under recommendation 19. The recommendation is titled ‘Consideration of other law modifications’ and cites nine different elements of the game.

They are; “five metre retreat, two player tackle, one marker, no lifting the ball carrier, no slinging/swinging/throwing players, no falling on a prone player, no ankle taps and uncontested scrums.”

Those recommendations are set to be trialled during the whole of the 2024 season at the community level and through all age groups, with the reason given explaining that it will: “Theoretically reduce fatigue and therefore potential concussion risk factors.”

It begs the question of what exactly should Josh Dugan have done in that two on one scenario if ankle taps were outlawed? How would that same scenario look if such laws are approved f0llowing this trial season?

The RFL had confirmed the full list of 44 recommendations earlier today, announcing them via their website with a statement explaining the process.

“The independent Board of the Rugby Football League have accepted 44 recommendations from the sport’s Brain Health and Clinical Advisory Group Sub-Committees, as the latest and most wide-ranging phase of the drive to make the sport safer and more accessible at all levels.

“The recommendations – which are detailed on the RFL website – include changes for the 2024 season to the Laws, the Operational Rules, to Medical / First-Aid standards, and Coaching / Performance interventions. This will affect all levels of the sport, from the Betfred Super Leagues (Men and Women) to Under-6s at community clubs, in different ways.”

For more information on the new recommendations, click here.

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