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Saracens give update on the Owen Farrell 'tackle school' progress

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by David Rogers/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Saracens are waiting to hear whether England skipper Owen Farrell has successfully come through tackle school after he undertook the World Rugby coaching intervention programme. Banned last Wednesday for four matches at a disciplinary hearing following his cited shoulder-to-head collision the previous weekend with Gloucester’s Jack Clement, Farrell was given the option to have the last game of that suspension scratched provided he attend tackle school.

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The successful completion of this intervention programme would ensure that the Farrell ban will expire following Saracens’ January 28 league match at home to Bristol and clear him to lead England in the following weekend’s Guinness Six Nations opener versus Scotland at Twickenham.

It was July 201 when World Rugby first introduced the tackle school concept allowing suspended tacklers the opportunity to polish their technique and get the benefit of a week off their punishment.

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That school this past week involved Saracens recording footage of Farrell completing training ground drills to improve his tackle technique. There would also have been discussions with him about tackling and the intervention was filmed and passed onto World Rugby for review.

“He is in the process of doing it. I think it is sent off,” reported Saracens head coach Joe Shaw when asked on Wednesday by RugbyPass how far along was Farrell towards successfully completing the coaching intervention programme he needs to pass in order to be available to lead England at the start of the Six Nations.

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“I think you heard Kevin Sinfield in what he was talking about in the press the other day, it’s no different (at Saracens when it comes to tackling). We’re at it every single day with people trying to get better at tackling, trying to get better at passing, trying to get better at kicking so that is where we are.

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“Owen is no different to anybody else, he will be at it and trying to get better and games that he has played and performances that he has put in and tackles that he has made, that speaks volumes. He will be at it again trying to improve his tackle technique, his kicking, his passing and everything else that makes Owen Farrell Owen Farrell.

“The man to get in here is Adam Powell. Adam Powell is obsessed with it, our defence coach. I concentrate on the passing and the attack, I let Adam deal with the process and the tackle, he is your man to talk to,” continued Shaw, who confirmed that Saracens were currently awaiting the necessary feedback from the tackle school assessors regarding Farrell. “Yeah, we are (waiting).”

There had been criticism that the coaching intervention programme was a box-ticking exercise that allowed banned players to simply shave a week off their enforced time on the sidelines. However, after conducting a stocktake of the tackle school measure, World Rugby revealed in late November 2022 that just eight of the 120 players who had graduated from tackle school had reoffended since their ban.

It said at the time that this behavioural change would now result in the pilot programme becoming a permanent measure to encourage bad tackle offenders to improve their technique.

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