World Rugby to add its ‘tackle school’ initiative into regulations

Matt Scott - World Rugby to add its ‘tackle school’ initiative into regulations - Alex Davidson/Getty Images
Matt Scott - World Rugby to add its ‘tackle school’ initiative into regulations - Alex Davidson/Getty Images

World Rugby’s coach intervention programme, commonly known as ‘tackle school’, has been heralded as a success and will be passed into regulation.

During the initiative’s global trial period, which was launched in July 2021, 120 players have applied to have suspensions reduced by a week, or a match, in return for undertaking additional training sessions focusing on technique.

Only eight of these players have received red cards since returning to matches, a rate of “re-offending” that has encouraged World Rugby.

This points to clear benefits for player welfare. Research has shown that 73 per cent of head injury assessments occur from a tackle situation, of which 76 per cent are needed by the tackler.

The continued opportunity to reduce sanctions will be welcomed by players, coaches and supporters, too, given the small margin of error that is often at play. Mere inches can be the difference between a fair tackle and a significant ban.

“As a sport, our mission is to reduce the frequency of head impacts in both game and training environments and we are approaching this through education, law amendments and tough sanctions,” said Alan Gilpin, the chief executive of World Rugby.

“Since its launch, the coaching intervention programme has challenged coaches to think about tackle technique and safety, and lessons learned from these cases can be applied to every player, creating a benefit for all players in the game. The behavioural statistics and feedback have been overwhelmingly positive.

“It is important to state that we are not saying that head contact is exclusively a player technique issue, as we will continue to work tirelessly to reduce the risk via law amendments and education, but good technique certainly contributes to reduced head injury risk, and we are encouraged that the players and coaches share this view.”

Dan Kelly, the Leicester Tigers and England centre, is one player to have used the coaching intervention programme. He had his three-week ban reduced to two following a dangerous tackle on Saracens scrum-half Aled Davies in October 2021. Kelly suggested that the intervention has “bettered my game” both “technically and overall”.

“The coaching intervention programme is by no means a tick-box exercise,” added Phil Davies, World Rugby’s director of rugby. “In order to benefit from a shorter suspension, the coaching intervention must be a targeted and technique-focussed measure, designed to analyse tackle or contact technique and identify and implement positive modifications.”

“We want to change the player’s behaviour and ultimately reduce the risk of injury to themselves and opponents. This intervention is reviewed and overseen by an independent expert coaching review group and can only be undertaken once per player.

“Of the 100 plus players who have been through the programme, eight have had further red cards. Those players can’t apply twice, and they will generally then receive longer suspensions from the judicial process as a repeat offender.

“What we have seen in the 100-plus examples to date is a huge amount of transformative work being undertaken by participants and a genuine openness to change technique because of both the welfare and performance benefits of keeping players fit and on the field.”