World Rugby have taken a stance this year that I feel is long overdue: starting today, there will be absolutely no tolerance when it comes to tackles that make contact with the head. Far too often in the past we’ve allowed ourselves to make excuses or be lulled into acceptance of dangerous tackles in this game and with serious incidents of concussion and other brain injury causing lasting effects for players, it is certainly right that law changes should be made.
Here’s the new wording of the amended laws:
“From 3 January, two new categories of dangerous tackles will carry penalty offences to deter and eradicate high tackles:
A player is deemed to have made reckless contact during a tackle or attempted tackle or during other phases of the game if in making contact, the player knew or should have known that there was a risk of making contact with the head of an opponent, but did so anyway. This sanction applies even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders. This type of contact also applies to grabbing and rolling or twisting around the head/neck area even if the contact starts below the line of the shoulders.
Minimum sanction: Yellow card
Maximum sanction: Red card
When making contact with another player during a tackle or attempted tackle or during other phases of the game, if a player makes accidental contact with an opponent’s head, either directly or where the contact starts below the line of the shoulders, the player may still be sanctioned. This includes situations where the ball-carrier slips into the tackle.
Minimum sanction: Penalty”
I applaud this move by the governing body; however, the real challenge now is to ensure that referees interpret these changes strictly and apply maximum sanctions wherever warranted. Refereeing bodies need to adopt a zero tolerance approach themselves and be hard on refs who get this stuff wrong, because there is so much at stake.
Perhaps more challenging still is to convince commentators, journalists, coaches and other pundits to move away from the sort of language that condones illegal tackling. “It was a borderline case”, “that was a harsh card, he didn’t mean it”, “I think the referee has overreacted here, it’s a contact sport, after all”…. these are the sort of phrases that we need to eradicate if we’re going to get our entire community to take head injuries as seriously as they ought to be.Tweet