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World Rugby set to lower tackle height in professional game

NEWS: World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin said there are plans in place to reduce the legal tackle height in the elite game.

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Gilpin delivered the bombshell in an interview with The Telegraph and his comments follow the Rugby Football Union’s controversial decision to change tackle rules in the amateur game in England.

The RFU announced last week that amateur players in England will only be able to tackle from the waist down. The rules affect English clubs in divisions below the elite Premiership, second-tier Championship and women’s Premier 15s from July.

The new rule does not affect elite players in England and around the world just yet, but Gilpin confirmed that World Rugby will be introducing changes to the tackle law at all levels in the future.

However, in the interview, Gilpin hinted that the tackle height limit in the professional would not be lowered as far as the waist. A middle ground could be established between the current limit, which is shoulder height, and the waist.

Gilpin also revealed that World Rugby was planning to stage a global law trial from January 1, 2024. This will initially be introduced at the amateur level.

“Yes, we’re looking to make sure that we are implementing a lower tackle height across all parts of the game,” Gilpin said.

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“How that’s actually implemented is slightly different in the community game to the elite game.

“You’re in a slightly different environment, for a number of reasons, in the elite part of the game, particularly at an international level, because the level of — for example — medical provision, diagnostic ability etc, is very different.

“We obviously have television match officials, head injury assessment, the ability for immediate pitch-side care in all elite-level rugby that you don’t have in the community game.

“We’ve got to recognise that they’re not the same sport.”

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The story continues below…

The RFU has received widespread criticism for their ban on tackles above the waist in the amateur game, but the World Rugby chief has come to their defence.

“The RFU, obviously, is in the process of implementing some changes around tackle height that we support,” said Gilpin..

“Because we know, from all of the research and science and medicine, that lowering the tackle height is a really important part of making the game safer.

“There’s a lot of work to do to educate people. But we’ve got to, as a sport, try to find that really difficult but hugely important balance between safety, but making the game entertaining to watch.

“It’s not binary. It’s not one or the other. It’s how do we make the game safer and a better spectacle to watch and a better game to play?

“It’s tough because it’s a really, really complex message to deliver. On one level, it’s very simple. We know from all the research that’s been done, and it is incredibly comprehensive, you’re four-and-a-half times more likely to sustain a head injury when you tackle from an upright position than when the tackler is bent at the waist.”

Source: The Telegraph, The Daily Mail & AFP

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