RFU claim new tackle height law will make sport 'more exciting'

RFU claim new tackle height law will make sport 'more exciting' - AFP/Getty Images
RFU claim new tackle height law will make sport 'more exciting' - AFP/Getty Images

The Rugby Football Union has stood firm on its ban on tackles above the waist in defiance of an angry revolt against the move by proclaiming it would make the sport “more exciting”.

The governing body issued a statement on Wednesday night defending a law change announced last week that will come into effect at all levels next summer below the professional game.

It followed a furious backlash against what threatens to be among the biggest shifts in the way the sport is played in its history, one intended to make it safer but which critics have warned could spark chaos and even trigger a mass player exodus.

The RFU acknowledged the rugby community had “a range of questions” about a law change voted for by its council without wider consultation following trials of it in France and elsewhere.

“We recognise the change is challenging and the community game has understandably provided significant feedback and the change. However, the large body of scientific evidence strongly indicates that it will reduce the incidence of head injuries in the community game and, given the French experience of it over the past few seasons, suggests it is a more exciting game to play and watch. There will be further discussion with council members during the next few days before further details on the intent and details around the changes are published to the wider game.

“We consider the decision to reduce the tackle heights to be the start of the process, to allow for a period of engagement in the coming weeks with groups of coaches, players and referees, drawn from across the country and from all levels of the game, including the men’s, women’s and age grade game, over the detail, intent and implications of the law change, before finalising it.

“We will publish further information, including videos and FAQs, in the coming days to provide further guidance. This will be followed by a multi-format training offer which will include face-to-face, webinar, e-Learning and will be offered in the lead up to, and throughout, next season to players, referees and coaches. We will also provide targeted communications to the 150,000+ affiliated age grade players and their parents to share appropriate learning content tailored for each age grade that they can use to further develop their tackle and contact skills.”

Staffordshire clubs have led the backlash against the law change and, following a committee meeting on Monday evening, the county became the first board to mandate that their councillor, Michael Proctor, rescind his vote to push through the trial.

The same day, the Community Clubs Union (CCU), a newly formed independent voice for rugby clubs in the community game, accrued 165 letters of support. The group intends to force a special general meeting and deliver a vote of no confidence in Bill Sweeney, the RFU chief executive.