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'anger and concern': RFU responds to tackling height uproar

REACTION: The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has been left with no choice but to address their controversial decision to change tackle rules in the amateur game in England.

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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, however, it causes a major uproar in the rugby community, with Ireland coach Andy Farrell and captain Johnny Sexton also voicing their grievances.

The RFU released an official statement on Friday, stating that they apologise for the anger and concern that has been created among the rugby community by announcing the decision to lower the tackle height from next season.

“In our desire to act quickly to reduce head impacts and concussions in the community game, which represents 99 percent of the rugby playing population in England, we have upset many of you who are the champions, volunteers, and ambassadors of our game,” The statement read.

“We fully acknowledge we got the engagement wrong, and we are truly sorry.”

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RFU revealed that New Zealand will follow suit as they will also lower their tackle height soon.

“In making our decision we were aware that France have lowered the tackle height, New Zealand will be doing so and World Rugby supports this approach.

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“We, like the French, used the term “waist and below”; this has caused misunderstanding and confusion. We would now like the game to help us define how we describe a lower tackle height to reflect what the research is telling us in a way that is understood by all. Consequently, the risk of head injuries should be reduced if tackling below that optimum height. We will now begin a series of forums and workshops with players, coaches, match officials and volunteers, to explain and develop the details of the domestic law variation.”

The statement added: “A large body of scientific evidence demonstrates the risk of head injury and concussion for players can be reduced by lowering the tackle height to prevent head-on-head contact. However, we also accept that the rugby community has other concerns that this change may bring and we need to listen, understand and respond to those concerns. We will start inviting players, coaches, match officials and volunteers to these forums from early next week, so that we can all work together.”

The new rule is not directed towards elite players in England and around the world just yet, but World Rugby Chief executive Alan 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.

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