Who are the rugby internationals who have had to go to World Rugby's Tackle School?

World Rugby introduced its Coaching Intervention Programme in July 2021 and since then several international rugby players have gone to ‘tackle school’ as it’s known.

The programme was formally adopted a year later, after a successful trial. It is in the news again after England captain Owen Farrell was sent off after a high tackle on Wales’s Taine Basham in a World Cup warm-up match.

Taking part in the programme allows elite players to reduce their suspensions for dangerous tackles by a week. It is “only available to leagues/competitions offering the highest levels of player welfare by utilising the HIA process. This ensures a consistency in the approach, and quality of footage for the review process”, World Rugby has said.

Related: What is tackle school?

Farrell, having gone through the programme back in January after a high tackle on Gloucester’s Jack Clement in a Premiership match at Kingsholm, is ineligible to attend again. 

As World Rugby’s Chief Player Welfare and Rugby services Officer Mark Harrington pointed out on X, the social media site formerly known as Twitter, the programme is more than a ‘box-ticking exercise’.

A total 120 players took part in the programme during the trial period, with just eight subsequently committing further dangerous tackles. 

As a ‘repeat offender’, Farrell is not eligible to return to tackle school, and the independent disciplinary committee could impose a longer suspension.

Most sanctions are imposed following red cards or citings in domestic league matches. But it’s inevitable in a game of as many moving parts as rugby that senior players are sanctioned at Test-level too. Even the best get it wrong.

Rugby internationals who have gone to tackle school

Zander Fagerson

A week before Owen Farrell had an initial yellow card upgraded to red by the referee in the TMO bunker, Scotland’s Zander Fagerson was sent off following a dangerous challenge at a ruck on France’s Pierre Bourgarit. 

He was banned for three weeks, but will be free to face South Africa in Scotland’s Rugby World Cup opener if he attends – and graduates from – tackle school.

Michael Leitch

Japan captain Leitch was sent off for a dangerous challenge in a Test between Japan and Samoa in July. His three-match ban should have ruled him out of the Brave Blossoms’ remaining warm-up games. But, after completing the programme, he should be available for Japan’s final outing before the World Cup against Italy.

Anton Lienert-Brown

Chiefs’ Anton Lienert-Brown missed the first two games of the 2023 Rugby Championship after landing a three-week ban for a dangerous tackle on Crusaders’ Dallas McLeod in the Super Rugby Pacific final. Going to tackle school meant he was available for the All Blacks match against Australia. He was named on the bench.

Grant Gilchrist

The Scotland lock was sent off for direct shoulder contact with Anthony Jelonch’s head during the Six Nations’ match against France in March. His ban ruled him out of the rest of the tournament. But he returned for Edinburgh’s URC match against Connacht after completing the programme.

Uini Atonio

The France tighthead was yellow carded in Dublin for a high tackle on Ireland’s Rob Herring in the 2023 Six Nations. He was later cited, and banned for three weeks, reduced to two for his attendance at tackle school. He returned – and scored a try – in Les Bleus’ win over Wales on the final weekend of the tournament.

Owen Farrell

After completing tackle school to return in time for the 2023 Six Nations, Farrell told reporters: “We want to make sure that we are preparing in a way that we can play as hard as we possibly can and make sure it is as fair and as safe as we possibly can. I want to play a big part in that.”

He is ineligible to take part in the programme again, after his latest red card.

Ellis Genge

In April, the England prop was slapped with a three-week ban after being cited for a dangerous tackle on Tom Curry in Bristol’s Gallagher Premiership defeat against Sale. The ban ended his season early, but taking part in the programme meant that his involvement in the World Cup warm-ups was unaffected.

Manu Tuilagi

The Sale centre missed most of the 2023 Six Nations after a red card in a Premiership match against Northampton in February. But he was selected for the final match of the Tournament against Ireland after going through the programme.

Brodie Retallick

In his 99th Test last November, the All Black lock was sent off after charging shoulder-first into the back of the neck of Japan’s Kazuki Himeno. He was slapped with a three-match ban. But he did the tackle course and won his 100th cap against England at Twickenham.

Duncan Paia’aua 

The Samoa centre was sent off for a shoulder charge on Alexander Todua in the November international against Georgia in Tbilisi. He missed Samoa’s final tour match against Romania, after copping a four-week suspension. But it was reduced to three after he did the tackle course.

Tudor Butnariu

Romania’s hooker was suspended for three weeks after he was sent off for a dangerous tackle in an international against Uruguay in July 2022. His six-week ban was mitigated to three, then two with tackle school.

Angus Ta’avao

All Black prop was suspended for three weeks after a red card against Ireland last July. The initial six-week entry point was reduced 50 percent for his, “excellent disciplinary record and the mitigating factors under Regulation 17”. Tackle school shaved a further week off his suspension.

Will Skelton

Eddie Jones’s World Cup captain was the first Baa-Baa to be sent off last August. He was banned for six weeks, reduced to five after he went to tackle school. 

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