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The Tackle Height.



You will have all received the plethora of email over the last day or so, either from the RFU, from Who's-The Ref or from the Society, about the guidance that has been issued around the lowering of the tackle height from July 1st 2023.


The two main guidance documents have been copied to the documents section of this website.

  • RFU 2023-04 - Law variations approved to lower tackle height in community Rugby Union in England

  • RFU 2023-04 - 3_3.1 (a) & (b) - Appendix 2 - Tackle Height Law (4)_3

The text is given below but you should look at the original documents for the definitive versions. I assume that they are also available on the RFU website.


As John Wearing has pointed out "Our role as Society members is to referee matches in accordance with the Laws. Nothing changes!".


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Law variations approved to lower tackle height in community Rugby Union in England


Following an RFU Council decision (in January) to lower the tackle height in community rugby to improve player safety by reducing the risk of head-on-head contact and concussion, the RFU has undertaken extensive consultation to listen to feedback on how to best define and implement the law variations. The consultation heard a wide range of views and gathered thoughts and ideas from 8,500 people through an online open survey, the RFU also met with over 1000 people during 25 in-person and virtual forums across 13 locations and met 270 coaches, players, match officials, disciplinary officers, Club chairs and CBs, parents and teachers through 22 focus groups and online panels. The open survey was independently analysed by the research company YouGov and this feedback was presented to the RFU Council who today (21 April) voted to adopt the law changes with the new tackle height level from 1 July being defined as below the base of the sternum. To read more about the findings of the consultation and the law changes, please click the link below. I would like to thank everyone who contributed to this consultation and to say thank you in advance to the wider rugby family who will be vital to ensuring we implement this change successfully. We along with many other Unions across the world are lowering the tackle height to reduce the risk of concussion. We know change is challenging however, it is imperative that we are guided by the science to help make the game safer for our players. As part of our ongoing injury surveillance studies, we will monitor the impact of this law variation and would encourage as many clubs as possible to sign up to participate in CRISP by contributing their data it will enable us to continue to monitor and introduce injury prevention strategies.

Nigel Gillingham, RFU President


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RFU Laws Sub-Committee

11th April, 2023


Domestic Law Variation: Lowering the tackle height implementation


Background


The Domestic Law Variations have been discussed and agreed by the Laws Sub-Committee and submitted to the Governance Standing Committee for their review. Governance approved the proposed variations with minor adjustments. The nomenclature has also been shaped through the thorough consultation exercise undertaken during March.


In mid-March, World Rugby’s (WR) Executive Board announced a recommendation to lower the tackle height to ‘below the sternum’ and encouraged Unions world-wide to participate in an opt-in global law trial in their respective community games. It also allowed each Union to determine the exact tackle height within their jurisdiction. Reduced tackle height trials are already employed in France and, most recently, New Zealand. We are also aware that Scotland, Wales and Ireland are considering similar changes to their community games. We are in dialogue with them.


RFU Consultation


After an initially poor communication to the Game which drew widespread criticism, the RFU (professional staff and Council Members) developed an extensive communication and consultation exercise which has now concluded. The aim of the consultation was not to change Council’s decision to lower the tackle height but to consult on how we might describe the tackle height, the ball carrier’s responsibilities and how this could be implemented across our Game. It might also inform how the law changes were constructed. Consultation comprised a national electronic survey, 25 Face-to-Face or virtual consultation meetings across the country and a number of forums with coaches, players and referees. All meetings and forums were recorded to extract as much feedback as possible.


The national survey provided valuable feedback on how the new tackle height is described. ‘Below the base of the sternum’ was the most preferred at 35%, with the ‘midriff’ at 29% of respondents. With introducing a lower tackle height, consideration has been given to the obligations of the ball-carrier engaging with an opponent, in particular, the height at which the do so. A significant number of respondents (45%) favoured ‘shoulder and head should be above the hips when carrying the ball into contact’. The consultation meetings produced a broadly similar result to those two questions.


To decide how best to frame the law changes, a task and finish group was created comprising LSC members, a senior coach and national referee officials. Consideration was given to which law would be the most appropriate to amend. Law 14 (the tackle) was considered but, on balance, law changes were best accommodated in Law 9 (foul play). An important principle in framing the amended law was to keep the changes to a minimum and as straightforward as possible, consistent with lowering the tackle height to below the base of the sternum. The RFU Head of Discipline was also consulted in relation to the DLV wording, in particular, in relation to the application of on-field sanctions and providing guidance to county disciplinary committees.



Proposed Domestic Law Variations – Markup version


Definition:


Below the base of the sternum: This is the area of the tummy or belly and below.


Law 9 Foul Play


9.11. (a) Players must not do anything that is reckless or dangerous to others including leading with the head, shoulder, elbow or forearm, or jumping into, or over an opponent.

(b) Ball-carriers must not lower their height significantly before making contact with an opponent in open play.


9.12. A player must not physically or verbally abuse anyone. Physical abuse

includes, but is not limited to, biting, punching, contact with the eye or eye area, striking with any part of the arm, head, shoulder, forearm or knee(s), stamping, trampling, tripping or kicking.


9.13. A player must not tackle or attempt to tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously. Dangerous tackling includes, but is not limited to, tackling or attempting to tackle an opponent in open play above the base of the sternum even if the tackle starts below the base of the sternum.


Proposed Domestic Law Variations – Clean copy


Definition:


Below the base of the sternum: This is the area of the tummy or belly and below.


Law 9 Foul Play


9.11. (a) Players must not do anything that is reckless or dangerous to others including leading with the head, shoulder, elbow or forearm, or jumping into, or over, an opponent.

(b) Ball-carriers must not lower their height significantly before making contact with an opponent in open play.


9.12. A player must not physically or verbally abuse anyone. Physical abuse includes, but is not limited to, biting, punching, contact with the eye or eye area, striking with any part of the arm, head, shoulder, forearm or knee(s), stamping, trampling, tripping or kicking.


9.13. A player must not tackle or attempt to tackle an opponent early, late or

dangerously. Dangerous tackling includes, but is not limited to, tackling or attempting to tackle an opponent in open play above the base of the sternum even if the tackle starts below the base of the sternum.



To support the ‘black letter’ law amendments, an application guide is currently being prepared. This will, for example, include clarification of what ‘significant’ means in the new Law 9.11 (b). This will be circulated to Council along with the law amendments at its 21st April meeting.


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