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More players voice scrutiny over RFU's new tackle height laws

By Ned Lester
Jack Nowell attacks the line for England. Photo by Alex Davidson - RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images

Strong opposition continues to build over the RFU’s new tackle laws which are set to be introduced across the community game in England.

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It was announced Thursday that in an effort to support player welfare, legal tackle height for all age grade and adult amateur players in England would be reduced to the waistline.

The announcement comes after a University of Glasgow study released their findings in October of last year, which found ex-rugby players – both professional and amateur – face more than twice the risk of neurodegenerative disease and a 15-times higher risk of a motor neurone disease diagnosis.

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However, former Wallaby prop Oliver Hoskins shared his experience as a testament to why lowering the tackle height won’t necessarily have the desired effect, saying: “I was part of the trial of similar laws during the Championship Cup season a few years ago… we literally had exponentially more concussions because of it. Tackle choice is situational and forcing low tackles in all cases is even more dangerous I think the trial showed this.”

Hoskins, along with other members of the rugby public have been quick to share a link to the results of the trial, which ultimately was summarised with: “While the trial was done with the best intentions, it has shown how challenging it will be for administrators to make the professional game safer. There is no quick fix.”

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44-cap England winger Jack Nowell implied a shift in accessibility to the community game for professionals, a sentiment many fans have brushed on by claiming the law change divides the community/amateur game and the professional game into two different codes. Nowell wrote: “Oh wow. My dreams have been crushed of one day going back to play for @PiratesAmsRFC“.

Gloucester flanker Lewis Ludlow and Swinton Lions’ Nick Gregson shared the views of Oliver Hoskins, writing: “Well concussions are about to go through the roof in the community game!” and “Even more concussions pending”.

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London Irish flyhalf Rory Jennings put it simply in response to the RFU’s Twitter post: “Self-sabotaging!”

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80-match Championship player Ollie Stedman said: “Let adults make their own decision about the risks they are willing to take. As they have done happily for 200 years.”

Meanwhile, a change.org petition has been set up with the aim of representing the rugby community’s disapproval of the decision and to “remind the RFU to STOP ruining our game!” as the petition’s creator wrote.

They went on to explain: “Rugby Union, a game for all shapes and sizes, has never had that phrase more challenged than now. I completely understand the need to make the game safer and where possible eliminate the head on head collisions, but no-one is forcing anyone to play rugby union.

Dropping the tackle height to below the waist will make the game a farcical spectacle to watch. Not allowing players to dip into tackles to bump tackles off is also a crazy decision in a game that is not only about speed, but power too!”

The petition received 6,000 supporters within 10 hours.

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