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'I think radical action is needed': Ex-England international throws support behind RFU rule

By Kim Ekin
(Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

The RFU’s bombshell decision to introduce waist-high or below tackling into the amateur game has caused widespread backlash with over 65,000 participants signing a petition for a reversal.

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A number of high profile ex and current players and coaches have also come out in direct opposition or with concerns with the changes, including Ireland captain and coach Johnny Sexton and Andy Farrell.

But the RFU’s decision has found a supporter in former England international Ugo Monye, who backed the ‘radical’ move on the BBC Rugby Union weekly podcast with Sara Orchard, Chris Jones and Harlequins scrumhalf Danny Care.

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“I’m not surprised by the overwhelming emotion and amount of noise that has been created around it,” Monye told the panel.

“65,000 people have signed a petition to reverse this decision so far. I think it is the way the change was thrust upon the community and I think the way that was handled by the RFU paints quite a poor picture for the communications people working on this.

“It shouldn’t come out like that. I think the RFU absolutely understand that and if they don’t then you’ve only got to go onto Twitter and have a look at the complaints that have been lodged.”

Monye believed that there wasn’t enough data at the community level to assume that the professional game has a bigger concussion issue, stating that no return to play protocols could see concussed players back on the field too early.

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“There are gaps of truth in all of it,” he said.

“We’ve come to the conclusion that it is a bigger problem in the elite game than the community game. How? Can anyone prove that?

“You don’t take data from the community game on concussion. There will be more players returning back to playing prematurely from suspected concussions than the elite game.

“My point is around data, we have no data on the community game from level three and below.

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“I’m in the minority here based on what I’ve seen online, I’m in favour of it.

“I totally understand the emotional response to it, I totally get it. There is so much more information that is needed to make this a success.

“I think you are absolutely right in calling it radical, but I think radical action is needed when we have issues in our game.

“If the number one priority for our game, whether it is governance or people who run the game is safety, then we need to have a safer game.

“People are stepping away from the game due to Covid and the habits which you’ve mentioned, but the noise for the last three years has been about concussion and finally I think we are doing something radical to hopefully change behaviour.”

England international and Harlequins scrumhalf Danny Care, who just made his 350th appearance for the club against the Sharks in the Champions Cup, who was willing to give the idea some thought but his personal view was it would lead to more concussions.

Care was concerned for tacklers with a low head position aiming for the waist area where knees and hips can create dangerous contact.

“It is a radical decision, like you say, a bolt from the blue, no one really could have called it and the reaction is massive,” Care said.

“We’ve even seen the England captain Ben Stokes tweet about it. When you get someone like him tweeting about it, it’s big news. It’s not just rugby news, it’s huge news.

“It’s massive for the game. I will counter this by saying, should we not just give it a bit of time?

“Obviously they are doing it for a reason. Is the reason right? My opinion is I feel you are going to have a lot more head injuries.

“I see the size of these lads running in and if you are making people have to tackle low, I don’t know the stats and won’t profess to know the stats, but you are going to see a lot more people getting concussed and knocked out which is the opposite of what we want in this game.”

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