World Rugby to crack down on head-high tackles

Beth Newman Profile
by Beth Newman

World Rugby has promised to crack down on head-high tackles, with a number of law changes introduced for the 2017 season.

The world body has redefined high tackles and increased the punishment for these hits to deter head-high contact, as the concerns over concussions grows.

While injury rates haven’t increased, the new definitions come with a broader concern over the long-term effects of concussion, with a recent study finding three-quarters of these occur in the tackle and many are caused by a dangerous tackling position.

The two new categories introduced on January 3 2017 will be the reckless and accidental tackle, with differing punishments.

World Rugby is taking a zero tolerance stance on high tackles. Photo: Getty ImagesA reckless tackle is one in which it is deemed a player should have known the risk of making head-high contact but continued with their action regardless, with tackles that begin below the shoulders included in this.

The definition of a reckless tackle can also include ‘grabbing and rolling or twisting around the head/neck area”.

Reckless tackles will be an automatic yellow card, with the potential for a red card depending on the severity.

Accidental tackles are deemed to be contact ere a player unintentionally makes head-high contact with an opponent, including where a ball carrier slips into a tackle.

These will be punished with a penalty.

ARU CEO Bill Pulver welcomed the initiative on Thursday.

“The welfare of all rugby players – young and old, male and female – is the number one priority for us in Australian Rugby, and along with World Rugby we are dedicated to implementing best practice safety measures across all levels of our game,"- Bill Pulver

“We wholeheartedly endorse World Rugby’s recent announcement of new law applications that make it clear that head and neck safety is a fundamental premise of our game.

“This year, the ARU completed the Annual Injury Surveillance Report which has provided us with important information which we’ll use to continue to improve safety in our game, ensuring that player welfare is at the forefront of all our ARU decision-making.” 

The move follows a recent shift to crack down on dangerous tackles in rugby, with a number of law changes to be introduced in 2017

World Rugby chief medical officer Dr Martin Raftery said the changes were progress for the code.

"The findings of this important research study will also be prepared into a series of scientific articles that we aim to have published in peer-reviewed journals,” he said.

“We continue to welcome and facilitate all quality research for the betterment of the game in this priority area.

"World Rugby is committed to playing a leading role in the sporting head injury agenda and continues to drive forward evidence-based strategies in education, prevention, management and research that are proving successful in protecting players at all levels of the sport."