London – England’s governing Rugby Football Union (RFU) has ended its trial on lowering tackle height after a preliminary study indicated that this contributed to an increased likelihood of concussions, Britain’s Daily Telegraph reported on Friday.
How to reduce the number of head injuries suffered by rugby union players has become as major concern for the game’s authorities, as in other contact sports, with the deaths of four young French players in eight months last year leading to renewed safety concerns.
Lowering tackle heights had been suggested as a way of reducing the risk of concussion in rugby.
But when this rule was introduced into England’s Championship Cup, a competition for second-tier clubs, the RFU found that while it reduced upright and high tackles, it also increased the relative risk of concussion because of “unintended behaviours” and collisions where both the tackler and ball-carrier were bent at the waist.
There were particular concerns about players in ‘pick and go’ situations, where they were receiving a short pass from a scrumhalf off the back of a ruck and close to the opposition defence – a situation where the ball-carrier might well be in an initially low position.
“We need to analyse the data in more detail,” Nigel Melville, the RFU interim chief executive and a former England scrumhalf, told the Telegraph.
“But our preliminary analysis has shown that all of these incidents occurred when a bent-at-the-waist tackler was attempting to tackle a bent-at-the-waist ball-carrier following a short pass from the scrumhalf.”
Dean Ryan, RFU head of international player development, added: “We knew the areas around the pick and go and pop-off nine were going to be difficult to referee. So, in one area that we said was going to be difficult to referee, and therefore we would apply current law, what we created was an unintended behaviour of somebody bending in a tackle in that situation.”
Former Samoa Under 20 flanker Faiva Tagatauli died on Thursday after a suspected head injury.
South Africa’s Pat Lambie, 28, announced his sudden retirement last week, telling French sports daily L’Equipe he had suffered numerous concussions and “persistent post-concussion symptoms” as a result of his time in the sport.