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RFU tackle laws discussed in House of Commons

(Photo by Ryan Hiscott/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

The Rugby Football Union should rethink radical new tackle laws to avoid a player exodus, a Conservative former minister has urged.


Stephen Crabb, MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire in Wales, said rugby league could benefit from an influx of players if the RFU pushes ahead with changes to lower the tackle height to waist level from next season.

The bid to improve player safety will apply to all levels of English rugby union outside the Gallagher Premiership and Championship, although it has led to fears of a mass exodus from the sport – particularly among taller players.

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Sports minister Stuart Andrew said he will raise concerns highlighted by MPs when he next meets the RFU.

Speaking in the Commons, Mr Crabb congratulated Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle on becoming the new president of the Rugby Football League, before adding: “I suspect your form of the game, Mr Speaker, is going to see a big influx of new players as the English Rugby Football Union seeks to rewrite the rules of the union game.

“So, could I ask the minister if he agrees with me that, given that 75,000 players, coaches, supporters of the union game have already signed a petition rejecting the new rules, does he agree with me that the RFU should think again, should work more collaboratively with the grassroots across all home nations and ensure all steps taken to improve player safety are consistent, workable and don’t lead to a player exodus?”

Mr Andrew replied: “(Mr Crabb) raises a very important point and a number of colleagues have already raised this with me.


“As he’ll be aware, of course, national governing bodies such as the RFU are responsible for the regulation of their sports and ensuring that appropriate measures are in place to protect participants from harm and serious injuries.


“I can assure (Mr Crabb) that we continue to work with sports, and that includes the RFU, to ensure that player safety is prioritised and I will certainly raise the points he has raised in my next meeting with them.”

Mark Pawsey, the Conservative MP for Rugby in Warwickshire, said: “We’ve already heard about the RFU changes in the tackle law for rugby, and we understand that that’s in the interests of making the game safer, but we’ve heard about concerns amongst players more broadly.


“There is another issue, which is that, since the elite game is administered internationally, the new laws will only apply at a community level and many players – both elite and community players – believe this is wrong.

“Would the minister or the Secretary of State (Michelle Donelan) agree in principle that the rules and laws of any sport should apply equally to all of those who take part?”

Mr Andrew replied: “These national governing bodies, international governing bodies are independent of government, but he raises very important points that – as I committed a moment ago – I’ll be more than happy to raise in my next meeting with the RFU, and perhaps he and I could have further discussion about this in due course.”


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