World Rugby is set to lower the tackle height of the elite game

The RFU has stood firm by its ban on above-the-waist tackles, which its council has refused to consult with the wider game before voting in favor of. The response from those affected has been so severe that Bill Sweeney, the governing body’s chief executive officer, and his board are at risk of facing a vote of no confidence. But Gilpin defended the ban, which was imposed amid the recent spate of lawsuits against World Rugby and the RFU from former players with dementia or other brain disorders.

“The RFU is obviously in the process of making some changes in terms of the device heights that we support,” he said.

World rugby is likely to settle into a waist-to-sternum position under the proposed new tackle laws.

World rugby is likely to settle into a waist-to-sternum position under the proposed new tackle laws.Credit:Getty

“Because we know from all of research, science and medicine that lowering tackle height is a really important part of making the game safer.

“There is a lot to be done to educate people. But we as a sport have to try to find that really difficult but extremely important balance between safety and having fun.

“It’s not binary. It’s not one or the other. How do we make the game safer and a better spectacle to watch and a better game to play?

“It’s difficult because it’s a very, very complex message that needs to be conveyed. On one level it’s very simple. We know from all the research that’s been done, and it’s incredibly comprehensive, that you’re four and a half times more likely to injure your head when attacking from an upright position than when the attacker is bent at the waist.

“We need to get players to attack lower in every part of the game. Obviously there is an elite part of the game where we do a lot of work and we have used sanctions and particularly red cards to drive behavior change.

“If you look at the community game, rolling it out on a global basis is a challenge.

“It requires significant buy-in from the game in different parts of the world.

“I think there will always be the traditionalists who understandably say, ‘Stop tweaking things and don’t change too much because we’re really worried about losing the inherent structure of the sport’ – and we all absolutely understand that . At the same time, we must ensure that we attract people to the sport that is safe to play or as safe to play as a contact sport can be.

World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin in Sydney last year.

World Rugby Chief Executive Alan Gilpin in Sydney last year.Credit:Getty

“There is always something to do when it comes to implementing change and how to consult about change and how to communicate and educate about change. But the bottom line is let’s lower the tackle height at every level of the game because that will reduce the number of head injuries we see in rugby – absolutely reduce.

“It’s really important if we’re going to win the battle for the hearts and minds of not only the young people we want to play, boys and girls, but also the mums and dads who might be worried about injuries in rugby.

“So from a world rugby perspective, we have a responsibility to work hard with our member associations around the world.

“This communication challenge is more difficult in places where rugby has a long legacy and history and is played in significant numbers and that is exactly what the RFU is experiencing in this last week or so.”


Gilpin’s statement comes as momentum builds towards a vote of no confidence in Sweeney, the RFU’s chief executive, with nearly 250 clubs now supporting an extraordinary general meeting after the board sought to implement new tackle legislation.

Community Clubs Union, an independent organization formed in response to last week’s announcement, has spearheaded the campaign. They hope to secure final approval of a letter in the coming days requesting an extraordinary general meeting requiring the support of at least 100 members of the union and are coordinating the process of collecting letters from any dissenting club that is required be signed by a chairman and a secretary.

Telegraph, London

Check out all the action from the Six Nations Starting February 5th, every game will be streamed ad-free, live and exclusively on Stan Sport. World Rugby is set to lower the tackle height of the elite game

Ryan Sederquist

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