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Rugby league set for “big influx of new players” as House of Commons discuss 15-man code

It was major news last week that the Rugby Football Union (RFU) announced a huge change in the laws of the game surrounding tackling with tackles capped at waist height.

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.

Reaction to the rule change from rugby union fans has been hugely critical with some even going as far to say that it completely kills the game.

The topic has now been discussed today in the House of Commons where the Speaker, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, is a huge rugby league fan and the president of the RFL.

Former Conservative Minister Stephen Crabb, MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire in Wales, a huge rugby union heartland, addressed Hoyle regarding his presidency and made the following comments.

“I suspect your form of the game is going to see a big influx of new players as the English Rugby Football Union seeks to rewrite the rules of the union game.”

He then addressed the sports minister: “So could I ask the minister that given that 75,000 players, coaches, supporters of the union game have already signed a petition rejecting the new rules, does he agree with me that the RFU should think again, should work more collaboratively with the grassroots across all home nations and ensure all steps taken to improve player safety are consistent, workable and don’t lead to a player exodus?”

The debate raged further on as well with Stuart Andrew, sports minister, claiming that player safety was paramount but concerns would be addressed in future meetings.

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