Rugby tackle changes: ‘I will not play again’ says grassroots player
The majority of rugby players in England will now be forced to reduce their tackle height to waist height or below.
The controversial call will come into force from 1 July this year and will apply to England’s third division – National 1 – and below.
This change in tackle height will therefore result in law changes later down the line.
The announcement comes on the same day as news that 55 former amateur players are beginning legal action against the Rugby Football Union, Welsh Rugby Union and World Rugby over negligence over brain injuries.
“I will not play after this season,” grassroots rugby player and podcaster Jonathan Beardmore told City A.M. “It hasn’t got any appeal anymore, I don’t think I can play that type of game because my game isn’t built around that.
“It’s not just the lowering of the tackle height, you’ve got to remember the lack of ability of the carrier to lower their height too.
“It might reduce concussions, we don’t yet know. But they’ve taken the game away from thousands and thousands of players who play rugby every week.
“They might grow the game and get different people in but to the players who’s game this was, they’ve been abandoned en masse.”
While the Rugby Football Union council – who have implemented this change – cite data and player safety as reasons for the height reduction, some suggest forcing players to put their heads in and around hips and knees could cause head injury issues in itself.
Rugby has been fighting with a concussion problem for a number of years with some players having to retire early due to increased exposure to head injuries.
But there has been a debate as to how the sport can make itself safer while staying true to the original game.
Over the last few decades, the sport has introduced concussion replacements and mandatory time off for head injuries.
“The grassroots game has always been safer, you’re not having professional tanks running at you time after time, all week,” says Sean Phelan, founder of Fill Your Boots – a grassroots rugby organisation.
“I am six-foot-seven and 20-plus stone whose knees and hips aren’t in great condition, it might be a struggle for me to tackle anyone now.”
RFU president Nigel Gillingham said: “Players’ welfare must always be at the centre of decisions we make about how we play the game of rugby.
“Evidence from our own research and from around the world clearly shows that lowering the tackle height will reduce head impact exposure and the risk of concussion.”