Drew Mitchell: Former Wallaby hits out at ‘dramatic’ RFU tackle height decision

Dylan Coetzee
Former Wallaby Drew Mitchell on the charge. He comments on the waist high tackle being implemented in England rugby

Wallabies great Drew Mitchell has hit out at the tackle height laws being introduced by the Rugby Football Union at community level in England.

From July 1, only waist-high and lower tackles will be permitted in England’s community game as the RFU looks to combat the sport’s head injury crisis.

Risk in every tackle

Mitchell described the decision as ‘dramatic’ and believes there is a risk going into every tackle with the possibility of getting a knee or a shin to the head in lower tackles.

The former Australian international called on Rugby Australia to wait and see the results in England before considering the same in the country.

“I think it’s a little bit dramatic,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald. “A few years ago the nipple height was introduced and quickly thrown out. I get what they’re trying to do … but I think this one is wide of the mark and going too far.

“I’m not going to sit there and say you’re at more risk or the same but there’s definitely an element of risk there. From my experience, I know going low [in a tackle] there is always the risk of getting a knee or shin to the head. I don’t think it’s going to be the silver bullet they’re looking for.

“I would implore Rugby Australia to sit and watch from afar. I’m pretty sure it’ll get to a point where we won’t have to make a decision because it would get thrown out pretty quickly.

“There’s got to be flow-on effects, too. If you can’t tackle anyone above the waist and every single attacking player has hands free during every single run [that changes the game]. Whilst trying to eliminate one thing, we open up something else.”

RA staying put

A Rugby Australia spokesperson confirms that the focus is on improving tackle technique at this stage as the governing body works closely with World Rugby on the matter.

“We are naturally the beneficiary of a huge amount of research undertaken by World Rugby and we work with them and other national unions on maximising player welfare at all levels. Our key focus for 2023 remains on correct tackle technique – which is critical to player safety – and we will continue to drive this priority with all coaches in 2023,” the representative told the Sydney Morning Herald.

READ MORE: England: Tackle height lowered to reduce concussions in community rugby