RFU urge World Rugby to lower the legal height of the tackle

England want to lower the legal height of the tackle to try and halt the worrying rise in concussion in the sport.

The Rugby Football Union and the Premiership clubs are to work with World Rugby in a bid to reduce the current legal height of the tackle. World Rugby initiated a crackdown on tackles that involved contact with the head, but England’s professional game believes more work needs to be done.

The RFU would back lowering the legal height to below the shoulder due to the small margin of error currently existing. The lower legal area would be waist height.

Dr Simon Kemp, the Medical Services Director Rugby Football Union, said: ” With World Rugby we have done three studies about the tackle and concussion and we need to avoid head to head contact, and head to knee contact and we do that by making the tackle make contact with the ball carrier between their waist and the line of their shoulders. You can drive that by changing the legal height or by changing player behaviour by changing the sanction for tackles that result in contact with the head. We would like WR to give consideration to reducing the legal height of the tackle because the margin of error is very small. This is key piece of work.”

The move comes as the latest Professional Rugby Injury Surveillance Project (PRISP) which monitors injury in English Premiership Clubs and the England Senior team has been produced by The Rugby Football Union (RFU), Premiership Rugby (PRL) and the Rugby Players’ Association (RPA). Besides highlighting a rise in concussion, the report also raises concerns about the frequency of injury sustained on artificial pitches.

The PRISP report for 2016-17 released today states: “For the sixth successive season, concussion was reported as the most commonly occurring match injury . The average severity of match injuries (the time taken to return to play) for the 2016-17 season was 32 days. This is the first time this figure has risen above the expected upper limit of season to season variation.

“For the first time hamstring injuries and concussion feature in the top three injuries resulting in more than 84 days absence. The reasons for this change in the severity profile for hamstring injury severity profile are unclear. The number of concussions requiring more than 3 months absence has also increased. This likely reflects a trend to more conservative management of players who have sustained two or more concussions in a 12-month period.

“For the sixth consecutive season, the most commonly reported match injury was concussion, contributing 22% of all match injuries. While there has been a continued focus on improving concussion awareness and promoting behavioural changes among players, coaches, referees and medical staff, together with the introduction of real-time video into the Head Injury Assessment (HIA) process, a change in the frequency and nature of game contact events cannot be excluded as a possible contributing factor to this increase and will be investigated. The mean severity of medically diagnosed match concussions in 2016-17 was 18 days.
“For the first season the incidence and burden of match injury on artificial turf in professional rugby was significantly higher than that of natural grass. The burden of injuries sustained when training on artificial turf was also higher than those sustained when training on natural grass.”