World Rugby has announced a number of changes to the Laws of the Game to help eliminate the high tackle and reduce the risk of serious injuries.
- Law changes globally from 3 January
- Changes effectively lower the acceptable height of a rugby tackle
- Approach informed by largest-ever study identifying most common situations leading to head injuries
- World Rugby data shows 76% of head injuries are caused in the tackle
- Players, coaches and match officials urged to be proactive in changing culture
The 3rd January 2017 sees a major shift in the laws of the game as World Rugby brings in a zero-tolerance approach to reckless and accidental head contact.
In a bid to reduce injuries in the sport, World Rugby has redefined illegal high tackle categories and increased sanctions to deter high tackles via a revised set of law application guidelines. In effect, the changes aim to ensure that the head is a no-go area.
The changes introducing minimum on-field sanctions for reckless and accidental contact with the head, effectively lowering the acceptable height of the tackle.
The new approach, which differs from the previously announced Law Trials in 2017, was approved by the World Rugby Council after extensive expert, independent and union evaluation, and combines with new set of disciplinary sanctions and a re-focus of match officials on dangerous play. The WR data involving over 1500 elite matches confirmed that 76 per cent of all head injuries occur in the tackle, that the incidence of injury for the tackler is more than two and a half times greater than the ball-carrier and that tackle height is a contributing factor.
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: “World Rugby continues to be proactive in aligning with the latest evidence-based recommendations in this priority player welfare area to ensure players and coaches at all levels of the game are appropriately educated, managed and protected when it comes to head impacts and injury within the environment of a contact sport.”
Ireland prop Tadhg Furlong, representing the International Rugby Players’ Association (IRPA) said, “When it comes to protecting the head and neck of players, everyone is rightly very cautious now. The culture around concussion has completely changed and it’s no longer acceptable for players to continue in a game if they’re even suspected of having a concussion. When it comes to dealing effectively with concussion in sport, rugby is at the forefront. The IRPA supports any measure that protects our welfare and we are in favour of this initiative, which we believe will help further to reduce head and neck injuries at all levels of the game. Rugby is a physical sport and there will always be a level of injury risk associated with it but the sport is doing as much as it can to make it as safe as possible.”
The new laws
From 3 January 2017, two new categories of dangerous tackles within Law 10 will carry penalty offences to deter and eradicate high tackles:
A player is deemed to have made reckless contact during a tackle or attempted tackle or during other phases of the game if in making contact, the player knew or should have known that there was a risk of making contact with the head of an opponent, but did so anyway. This sanction applies even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders. This type of contact also applies to grabbing and rolling or twisting around the head/neck area even if the contact starts below the line of the shoulders.
Minimum sanction: Yellow card
Maximum sanction: Red card
When making contact with another player during a tackle or attempted tackle or during other phases of the game, if a player makes accidental contact with an opponent’s head, either directly or where the contact starts below the line of the shoulders, the player may still be sanctioned. This includes situations where the ball-carrier slips into the tackle.
Minimum sanction: Penalty
For examples of the new recommended sanctions visit World Rugby Laws page and click on Law Application Guidelines
Let us know what you think of the new laws? Will they affect you? Are you already refereeing to these standards?