PLAYERS at every level in Scottish Rugby from the Premiership down will be required to tackle lower next season in accordance with a new law trial. The change will require tackles to be made below the sternum – the s0-called ‘belly tackle’ – and is aimed at reducing the number of head-to-head collisions and concussions.
Announcing the move this afternoon, a press release from Scottish Rugby explained that the decision to proceed with the trial is in line with a recommendation from World Rugby, and follows a series of online consultation sessions with clubs, schools and referee societies commissioned by Murrayfield’s Club Rugby Board (CRB). Participants in the sessions were questioned afterwards, and there was a clear majority in favour of change.
Eighty per cent agreed with the statement “We need to reduce the level of concussions in our game and see the benefit in trialling a lower tackle height”. By contrast, only six per cent agreed that “Players know the risks and we like the laws as they are”.
The press release spelled out what the law trial will mean: “Maximum height tackle in initial contact must be below the sternum. The second tackler is still permitted, but the player must make initial contact below the sternum.
“There will be no change to the current laws regarding the ball-carrier, but reckless play will be sanctioned (eg. leading with head) where the ball-carrier put themselves or the defender at risk of a head-on-head contact. There will be no change to the current laws regarding a ‘pick and go’ scenario.”
The semi-professional FOSROC Super Series tournament, as well as the fully professional game played by Edinburgh, Glasgow and the national teams, will not be affected by the new law. But trials in France and South Africa conducted by World Rugby have already found that lowering the tackle height significantly reduces the number of head-to-head collisions and concussions, and there is significant momentum within the global game in favour of measures designed to enhance safety.
SRU vice-president Keith Wallace, who is also CRB chairman, said: “Player welfare is of utmost importance to the representatives of the CRB, and as custodians for the community game, it is vital that we place safety and enjoyment at the heart of the decisions we make.
“We strongly believe reducing the tackle height from next season encompasses both of those matters and will create a more positive, and ultimately safer environment, in which our sport is played. It has been encouraging to see the level of engagement which those in our game met the consultation period with, and their receptiveness to the evidence from World Rugby’s endorsed trials.”
In order to help clubs, players and officials implement the trials, the SRU has created a “Tackle Height Hub” on its website with material to explain the changes. There will also be regional road shows in May and June at which members of the union’s Rugby Development department will deliver educational programmes.
ROAD SHOW DATES:
Wed 10 East Region at Gala RFC, 7-8.30pm.
Mon 15 Glasgow North at Scotstoun, 7-8.30pm.
Wed 17 Glasgow North at Hamilton RFC, 7-8.30pm.
Thurs 25 Caledonia Midlands at Stirling County, 7-8.30pm.
Wed 31 Glasgow South at UWS Ayr campus 7-8.30pm.
Mon 5 Caledonia North at Highland RFC 7-8.30pm.
Wed 7 East Heriot’s at RFC 7-8.30pm.
Mon 12 Caledonia North at Aberdeen Sports Village 7-8.30pm.
Wed 14 Glasgow South at Dumfries Saints 7-8.30pm.
Wed 14 East at Currie RFC 7-8.30pm.
Sat 17 Midlands at Mayfield Sports Centre Dundee, 10.30am-noon.