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.
In response to the announcement by the RFU on their Twitter a number of people, including players, were upset with the change.
I was part of the trial of similar laws during the Championship Cup season a few years ago… we literally had exponentially more concussions because of it.
Tackle choice is situational and forcing low tackles in all cases is even more dangerous
I think the trial showed this 🤦🏼♂️
— Oliver Hoskins (@omdhoskins) January 19, 2023
Let adults make their own decision about the risks they are willing to take
As they have done happily for 200 years
— Ollie Stedman (@oliverstedman) January 19, 2023
One fan even commented that this could indeed create a wave of fans heading to rugby league instead.
Looks like rugby league will be getting a boost in playing numbers. Chest height would have been reasonable and realistic, the risk of injury from a hip or knee is just as great having personally broken my cheek tackling below waist level.🤦♂️
— Ian Charles (@IanACharles) January 19, 2023