Ireland’s Six Nations captain Johnny Sexton today slammed England Rugby’s decision to drastically change the tackle laws for the amateur game.
Sexton and Ireland coach Andy Farrell, as well as French coach Fabien Galthie, weighed in on the debate that has got the community divided.
From July, the Rugby Football Union has decided to force all players in the grassroots game to tackle at waist height or lower.
Sexton not on fence
“Look, I don’t agree with it. There’s no point sitting on the fence really is there?” Sexton said.
“I just think you have tall people who play the game, it should be their decision how they tackle.
“Of course we need to get the head shots out of the game, but the tackles we really need to take out are the reckless, out-of-control, sprinting out of the line, tucking arms, all of those types of ones.
“I’ve seen a hell of a lot of concussions from people getting their head on the wrong side, a knee to the temple or a hip even to the side of the head. So, I strongly disagree.”
His head coach, Andy – father of the England captain Owen, who is currently serving a ban for a high shot a fortnight ago – added: “I think it’s super important that what has to come with that is the correct coaching, correct technique because of the reasons that Johnny has said.
“If you are ever just saying to a kid that you need to tackle lower, then you become even more vulnerable in my opinion.
“The coaching and technique of how it’s applied to tackling below the waist is absolutely crucial, otherwise we’re going to have a serious problem.”
The decision by England’s governing body to lower the tackle height did not come with evidence alongside it, instead a promise of clarity in the future.
In response, some players from across the community game were up in arms, with one telling City A.M. that he would never play the sport again.
Galthié, head coach of defending Guinness Six Nations champions France, waded into the debate yesterday by insisting that his players will work on themselves and their tackle heights regardless of what may become of World Rugby rules in the future, which could themselves change depending on the outcome of the RFU law alteration.
Protect the youth
“This is highly important,” the head coach said. “[A lower amount of bad tackles at the highest level] will come through our training, better techniques, better defensive techniques.
“We’ve talked about different techniques in attack but the defence is also really important.
“In France we have been working on [lower heights]. We’re working in France on the rules and we’re doing our best to bring this [idea] down to the young people and the people who are in the academies.
“At the end of the day what we want to do is protect our players and protect our young people.”
The debate surrounding tackle heights will no doubt rage on until the law comes into place, and beyond.
But there’s no chance of the discourse over this decision, that impacts so many in the grassroots and community game, dying down soon.