In news that will shake up union in Australia, the game’s governing body Down Under has confirmed it will work with World Rugby on a controversial law to completely revamp the way players make tackles.
Rugby Australia initially indicated in January they had no plans to follow extreme measures UK officials made to levels of National One and below in the men’s game, and Championship One and below in women’s rugby, with tackles below waist height to be banned.
But Rugby Australia CEO Andy Marinos revealed on Monday that the organisation would be working with World Rugby on a global trial aimed at reducing the legal height of tackles.
With concussion issues continuing to haunt the game, World Rugby is looking at reducing the legal height of tackles from below the line of the shoulders to below the sternum at the community level.
Wallaby Jed Holloway (top) wraps his arms around Argentinean player Santiago Carreras above the shoulders in a game between the two sides last year
They announced they would vote in May on whether to implement an opt-in trial across the globe, with each member nation receiving education and resources in order to implement and research the data.
Given all community competitions for the year in NSW, ACT, Queensland and Victoria are already underway, it is believed Rugby Australia could work with the Northern Territory, as its 2023/24 season runs from October to March, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.
Rugby Australia will take feedback from stakeholders right across the game when it comes to introducing lower tackle heights, Marinos said in a statement on Monday.
‘As part of the trial, Rugby Australia will undertake broad community consultation to gather feedback from players, coaches, match officials, teachers, parents, administrators and medical professionals to ensure their perspective is considered in any future decisions on tackle height in the community game,’ he said.
‘Additionally, Rugby Australia and Member Unions will continue to emphasise the importance of correct tackle technique and understanding of the laws of the game through its relevant education and training programs.’
All Blacks star Quinn Tupaea is treated by medical officials on the field against the Wallabies last year. World Rugby is aiming to reduce concussions and impacts on players by lowering the tackle heights in community games all over the world
Rugby Australia is involved in a number of research projects regarding tackle height and concussion, and is contributing to the global bank of research.
One such project includes a Queensland University of Technology study using 360-degree cameras and AI programming to determine whether there is any correlation between tackle height and reported concussions.
Marinos highlighted that participant safety will always be the most important factor of the game at all levels.
‘We will continue to ensure that any decisions impacting the game are informed by research and evidence that prioritise player safety and welfare.’
Fans were not pleased with the latest developments, with one writing the lower tackle heights would spell ‘the end of Rugby in Australia, right here’ and another labelling the a ‘disgrace’.
With law changes to Super Rugby continuing to be a talking point to start the new season, another fan pointed out that lowering tackle heights would mean ‘even more interpretation required by referees, which will be analysed to death’.
Brumbies flyhalf Noah Lolesio (centre) is tackled above the shoulders in their win over the Reds on Saturday night
World Rugby, though, insists rule changes are working when it comes to reducing impact and concussion, and is ploughing ahead with their mission to reduce tackle heights.
‘Rigorous independent research shows that the tackle is responsible for 74 per cent of all concussions,’ the organisation said in a statement on Monday.
‘Reducing the height of the tackle protects both players. The ball carrier is protected directly because head contact leading to injury can be significantly reduced, while the tackler is protected because their head will be in what is known to be a safer proximity with the ball carrier’s torso/upper body.
‘Tackles where the tackler’s head is in proximity to the ball carrier’s body above the sternum are more than four times more likely to result in a head injury, and so bringing tackle height down will benefit both players.’
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