Reds focus on tackle technique to avoid World Rugby crackdown

Super Rugby
by Emma Greenwood

Queensland coach Brad Thorn says the Reds' pre-season has included a "real focus" on tackle technique as World Rugby looks to crack down on dangerous high tackles with the introduction of its high tackle technique warning.

While the warnings will not lead to automatic bans, any tackler that strays high can expect to be punished.

While the Reds' forward depth and strike weapons in the outside backs have plenty excited about their season, it could be the work done by Thorn and defence coach Peter Ryan that proves most valuable.

"There's a real focus on that (technique) and there will be for most teams now," Thorn said.

"You can't afford to be giving away penalties or losing players. You've got to have a low tackle focus and we've been working away at that."

Thorn agreed teams had to evolve with law changes and his players had been working hard on their height at the tackle in a bid to escape the attention of officials.

"There's always some subtle changes every year, you just get the detail around that and adapt to what's happening," he said.

"Rugby's one of those games that continues to change. There's a part of me that likes a game like soccer - 100 years go by and it probably looks exactly the same.

"But they (tweak the rules) to look after players and protect them. They make changes sometimes for entertainment, for more positive outcomes, so you just flow with those things.

"Teams get continuity with offloads and stuff and you're still trying to shut them down, so it can be a tough one but it's just something you're constantly learning on that tackle height."

Reds captain Liam Wright said echoed Thorn's thoughts.

"You just can't get away with anything up high anymore, especially for our tall guys, it's just about translating that power a  bit lower and making good, dominant chops around the waist line in that second contact," he said.

"We've been doing a lot of work on that. Pretty much our (mantra) is we're not going high.

"Player safety is a pretty important thing and as someone who plays the game, you don't want to see anyone get hurt.

"At the same time, you don't want to see it go too far. We still like to play rugby as a game but I think they're trying to find that right balance at World Rugby at the moment.

"Head high, that speaks for itself, you don't get shots there. Anything below the shoulders is fine with me.

"You don't want it getting too crazy, I've heard of waist-high being the new change but it's a contact game and we like it (that way) but player safety remains a big issue."

The Reds got an idea of the penalties that could be expected when things go wrong after winger Filipo Daugunu received a five-week ban for a tip tackle late in last week's trial against the Rebels.

"That was really disappointing," Thorn said.

"Filipo is a wonderful, fine young man and it was just something silly. Five minutes to go and it wasn't needed - I can tell you that."

Daugunu, who late last year signed a four-year deal with the Reds that included a Rugby Australia top-up, showed his attacking ability earlier in the match when scoring five tries.

But his suspension gives new recruit Henry Speight and last year's rookie of the year Jock Campbell a chance to seal spots on the flanks for themselves.

"He's paid a bit of a price for that. It'll give him a pretty massive learning, I imagine, going forward and it gives those (other wingers) an opportunity," Thorn said of Daugunu.

"The ball's in their court. In five weeks' time we can only see where we're at then."

The Reds have been serial offenders in the past with lazy or poorly timed tackles that have been punished with cards and cruelled their chances.

But Wright said Daugunu's effort was an aberration.

"I'd definitely consider that an anomaly, I wouldn't expect too many more of those to come," he said.

"Often second-rowers, tall guys, big guys tackling small guys, you can slip up high. But we've really been working hard with Ryano on trying to eradicate that from our game.

"He's been pretty serious on that in the pre-season, where if you're doing high tackles, you're going and doing something not fun on the sidelines.

"So we're trying to get rid of that as best we can. Filipo had a pretty good performance last week and just didn't concentrate going into that tackle and that was the result.

"It's going to stand as a line in the sand for us where we're just not going to happen."