Many pros have had bans imposed for high tackles reduced after doing a Coaching Intervention Programme. But is it changing behaviour? Read our Face-off debate


Does Tackle School work?

NO, says the Evening Standard‘s rugby correspondent

Read more: What is tackle school?

“Nobody really liked school, not even the geeks. Rugby’s top players and coaches would have been the cool kids in their younger years anyway, so expecting them to sit up straight in class might be a big ask.

“World Rugby’s Tackle School initiative to stop players making the same mistakes in terms of high shots must rate as one of the noblest ideas this sport has had in a long time. Let’s not blast World Rugby for trying to make a change. It’s vital that head injuries are reduced and that rugby is safeguarded for future generations.

“But the current system doesn’t account for players and coaches going through the motions when they attend the well-organised, and by all accounts, well-run sessions. Recalibrating after 20-odd years of muscle memory will always be a tall order for players bidding to rid themselves of, especially, the stand-up tackle.

Does Tackle School work?

France prop Annaëlle Deshayes saw red for this high hit against Ireland in Cork (Sportsfile/Getty Images)

“Rugby was born out of a desire to break the rules and disregard authority in any case. So it’s not in the nature of the sport to condemn those that prefer to sneak a mile rather than take an inch.

“The concern will be well-founded that players and coaches will just start to see Tackle School as a means to reducing any suspension by a week.

“The old early guilty plea and full remorse is easy enough to pull off, so why not flam up interest in Tackle School too? The cynics in World Rugby’s corridors of power might just look at the frayed edges of their plan and cut away a few threads.”

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YES, says World Rugby’s director of rugby

“We want to change players’ behaviour and ultimately reduce the risk of injury. The tackle accounts for 73% of HIA events in the elite game, of which 76% occur to the tackler. The risk of concussion is more than four times greater when the tackler is upright.

“The Coaching intervention Programme (Tackle School) is overseen by an independent expert coaching review group and can only be undertaken once per player.

Related: Test players who have gone to tackle school

“Of the 100 or more 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 the welfare and performance benefits of keeping players fit and on the field.

Billy Vunipola report summary

How the disciplinary process works. In this case, after No 8 Billy Vunipola was sent off against Ireland

“The coaching intervention is not a tick-box exercise. To benefit from a shorter suspension, the intervention must be a targeted measure, designed to analyse tackle or contact technique and identify and implement positive modifications.

“From a coaching perspective, the tackle is fundamental to successful outcomes and practising good tackle technique can have welfare and performance benefits. The programme has enormous educational and behavioural benefits and is as important to the coach as they are to the player.”

Face-off: Does Tackle School work? We want to know what YOU think. Email your views to or contact us on social media @rugbyworldmag.

This debate first appeared in the November 2023 issue of Rugby World

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