Ex-Super League official fearful rugby league could copy rugby union as it would make sport more dangerous

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) have announced that from the 1st of July this year a huge change on tackling will be implemented across all amateur level from both age grade and adult rugby.

The proposed changes that will take effect from the midway mark of the year will lower the legal height of tackling with the RFU Council agreeing to the law change on Monday 16th January.

In effect the law change will now prohibit any tackles that are made above waist height in an attempt to improve player safety.

The statement that announced the proposed change was posted on the RFU website.

“Designed to improve player safety and informed by data, this change aims to reduce head impact exposure and concussion risk in the tackle for both the ball carrier and tackler. Evidence from studies has consistently demonstrated that higher contact on the ball carrier and closer proximity of the ball carrier and tacklers’ heads are associated with larger head impacts (as measured by smart mouthguards) and an increased risk of concussion.

“Lowering the height of the tackle and encouraging the tackler to bend more at the waist will minimise the risk of this occurring while maintaining the tackle as an integral part of the game.

“The RFU Council’s unanimous vote will result in law variations from next season, 2023/24, with the tackle height being set at waist height or below.

“Ball carriers will also be encouraged to follow the principle of evasion, which is a mainstay of the game, to avoid late dipping and thereby avoid creating a situation where a bent tackler may be put at increased risk of head-on-head contact with the ball carrier through a late or sudden change in body height of the ball carrier.”

The potential for this to impact rugby league is unknown but with IMG set to take over the game it’s an uncertain time for the sport in general.

One of the elements that makes rugby league so special and such a fast-paced game is the rarity and the ability of landing a successful offload.

If players were then unable to ‘wrap players up’ and prevent the off-load it could lead to a huge increase in line breaks from tackles with the ball-carrier free to easily find a pass.

There’s no indication as yet that league will follow suit with union but the responses to the news have seen many fans of the 15-man code upset, something that could prompt an exodus of fans to rugby league.

However, former Super League official Richard Silverwood has a warning for rugby league as he fears they may follow suit.

He actually thinks this could be more dangerous as he went to Twitter to say:

“This ruling by the RFU I hope doesn’t come into RL. Have they not thought about the possibility of more head clashes if 2 players are both tackling low? 1 low, 1 higher works so why change? Deal with head tackles more harshly, not change the whole game.”

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John Rushbrooke
John Rushbrooke
15 days ago

It will be a sad day if we see an end to a well executed smother tackle saving a certain try.
I see the possibility of several offloads in a single move in Rugby League. Whilst Union players are not always looking to offload as they can recycle the ball as many times as they wish, with only six tackles before a change of possession, it is a huge attacking weapon in League.
Also an excellent point from Richard Silverwood with the potential increase of two defenders clashing heads.
Can we also consider the potential for more concussions and neck injuries to the tackling players in another respect. If everyone has to tackle below waist height, we are bound to see an increase to injuries to the tacklers who have mistimed the tackle or got their head on the wrong side of the tackle.