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RFU announce tackle law changes in age grade rugby

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

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The Rugby Football Union have announced a new law change to the tackle height in age grade rugby in England for the 2021/22 season.


The new law will make an imagined line between the armpits the maximum height of a legal tackle in rugby up to under 18 level in order to avoid two heads entering the same ‘air space’.

These are the existing laws for those playing full contact rugby between under 9 and under 14 levels, but the RFU Council approved extending this to under 18 rugby, where the legal tackle height has been from the shoulder level downwards.

RFU Head of Game Development John Lawn said: This is an exciting and important piece of work. We started planning for this back in 2019 and it builds on everything done in the age grade game over the last decade putting in place a building block approach to full contact rugby.

“We want to make the game as safe as possible, but without losing the physical element that’s popular with players and this law change supports that.

“As a result of the fallow 2020-2021 season due to Covid-19 all age grade players, except for next season’s Under 17 and Under 18 age grades, will only have experienced tackling below the line of the armpit. A continuation of the laws they were previously familiar with will support their reintegration back into the game.

“Maintaining a single tackle height also supports the integration of players in the dual or triple age bands in the girls’ game.”


The RFU will also be implementing and evaluating a waist height tackle law variation and restricting late dipping/leading into contact with the head by the ball carrier in approximately 1,200 games in the under 16 to under 18 age grades during 2021/22.

The objective of this variation is to limit head-on-head collisions, while also creating more opportunities for passing. The evaluation will take place in three environments, which will be rugby playing schools and colleges, boys’ club rugby and girls’ club rugby.

RFU Medical Services Director Dr Simon Kemp said: “It’s an evidence-based, game-led approach. This is about head impact and concussion prevention. We know that the most effective control measures are law changes and coaching behaviour. What we’re doing here is taking five or six years of data analysis to develop and implement a law change supported by coach input that we anticipate will have a positive effect on injury risk.”

“Interim outcomes from the evaluation of a waist height tackle law variation in French community rugby show that a tackle at waist height or below together with the prohibition of the ball carrier bending into contact are having a positive impact on reducing the number of serious head impacts, are viewed positively by players, coaches and referees and from the video examples provided appeared to show a change in the shape of the game, with fewer rucks and more offloads.


“We are very excited to be evaluating a waist height tackle law variation of our own next season to see what we can learn from the data and player and coach feedback.”


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