South Africa: SA Rugby to discuss World Rugby’s tackle height changes

David Skippers
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SA Rugby have announced that they will discuss the possible implementation of World Rugby’s experimental law changes of lowering the legal tackle height in amateur rugby.

World Rugby issued a statement on Monday in which it recommended that the legal tackle height be lowered from below the line of the shoulders to the sternum at community level.

If the governing body’s council approves it in May, rugby’s national unions will be given the choice of opting-in to a global trial.

SA Rugby said it would now consult with its member unions and the South African Schools Rugby Association (SASRA) regarding the proposal before a potential roll-out of the trial in South Africa. If an agreement is reached on the trial, then it would only apply to the school and club game in South Africa.

World Rugby’s proposal comes after extensive analysis and consultation with the game’s various national unions. It reflected World Rugby’s main mission of a global sport for all which seeks to enhance the experience for players in order to keep building engagement across the globe.

It revealed that trials which were conducted in the community game in France, South Africa, Georgia and Fiji since 2019 had delivered positive advances in player safety, by reducing the number of head impacts and concussions and the overall game experience by supporting increased ball-in-play flow.

Positive results from tackle height adjustment

“The community game is the lifeblood of our sport, representing 99 per cent of our participants, and the proposed tackle height adjustment has already delivered positive game shape and playing experience outcomes,” said World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont.

“This is essential to the sport’s future. The evidence we have, from France in particular, shows that not only does reducing the tackle height make the game safer but it increases numbers playing as well. That has to be the aim for everyone involved in our game.”

SA Rugby president Mark Alexander said: “Changes that increase enjoyment and participation while improving safety have to be welcomed and we will now workshop these proposals with those most intimately connected with the delivery of the amateur game, our member unions and the schools.

“Our sport is moving in the right direction with such initiatives but, when, where and how we would be ready to implement them in SA needs to be thoroughly considered. If they are implemented here, we must do it with clarity and full buy-in.”

World Rugby said rigorous independent research showed that the tackle was responsible for 74 per cent of all concussions. Reducing the height of the tackle protected both players involved in the contact.

“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,” World Rugby said in a statement.

“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.”

Alexander said the recommendation would be considered at the South African Rugby Union’s amateur rugby committee’s next meeting.

READ MORE: Australia: World Rugby’s tackle height trial receives green light from Rugby Australia