Graeme Forbes and Kane Palma-Newport discuss whether a lower tackle height should be trialled.

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Face-Off: Is It Necessary To Trial A Lower Legal Tackle Height?

GRAEME FORBES
Head Coach of Jordan Rugby

Yes. Lowering the tackle line hopefully reduces the chances of head-to-head or head-to-shoulder contact. Many argue there’s an increased risk of head to knee, hip or elbow by pushing the tackle down. This is true but statistically the risk is not significant enough to remove the validity of the trial.

It’s important to understand that the trial could show us how to make the game safer for all, not just the pros.

Most pros understand the risks and have the strength and physical presence to carry out modern, powerful tackle techniques safely and have the medical back-up to manage mistakes. It’s a sad fact that many amateur players don’t.

For the “game’s going soft” mob, anyone worrying should look at the now infamous Josh Lewsey tackle on Mat Rogers. It was below the ribcage and as brutal as any chest-height tackle. It’s perfectly legal under the trial law.

Similar laws have been in use in French amateur rugby for a good four to five years. I have coached and played under them. You still get big hits, but the risk of sliding up to head height is greatly reduced.

KANE PALMA-NEWPORT
Ex-Bath prop now at Colomiers

The players know it’s the tackler who’s most likely to get knocked out. When the seatbelt tackle became prevalent, we all thought, ‘Well, that’s not actually going to change anything’. There were a few pens at first and by the end of the season it became a soft penalty.

One instance stands out from last season: Danny Cipriani and Faf de Klerk both ran upright and Cipriani, the tackler, got knocked out. Lads, don’t run in upright.

The danger is still with the tackler if you move tackles below the armpit. If you run hard and the tackler has got to get below the shoulders anyway and hits elbows, hip bones or knees – that’s what will knock lads clean out.

It’s people at the top of the game trying to look good, but actually if you really want to change anything tell carriers they can’t run crouched down with shoulders out; get everyone to run bolt upright so you can tackle them perfectly like you did at U9s!

Referees have been fantastic with concussion. But refs don’t make rules – they’re made by people at the top. Seatbelt tackles don’t knock guys out.

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This article originally appeared in Rugby World’s October edition.