RFU Council votes to lower the tackle height from the commencement of the 2023-24 season


The RFU announced on 19 January that it intends to amend the Laws, to lower the height of the tackle. This will take effect across community rugby in England from 1 July 2023, in time for the beginning of the 2023-24 season.

The reaction from the rugby community has been mixed, to say the least, with a great deal of concern having been expressed about the decision and its long-term (and possibly, detrimental) impact on the community game.  It is important to recognise, however, that this decision is not only about adult male players, but also about future male and female players in schools, colleges, Age Grade sections, and to address the concerns of parents of younger players.

I accept that the RFU’s announcement should have set out more prominently and clearly the rationale (and supporting scientific evidence) for its decision.

As your RFU Council Member, I was one of only 14 Council Members who voted for an amendment to delay the final decision on this very important issue until the Council meeting scheduled for the 13th February. This was to allow time to share the science and data on the reasons for this change and to consult with our clubs prior to the vote being held.

However, that amendment failed. I then voted for the change, based on the research and medical advice provided by Dr Simon Kemp (RFU Medical Services Director), in particular the evidence cited on accelerated head contact in the game, namely:

  • From experience in New Zealand
  • Research carried out at Stellenbosch in South Africa;
  • The experience of the French Federation, which introduced this tackle rule some 18 months ago to sections of the French Community game;
  • From the data gathered from the use of ‘intelligent’ mouth guards in England; and
  • The last 7 years of evidence from the CRISP ( Community Rugby Injury Surveillance Project).

I acknowledge that we should have shared this data and evidence much sooner with colleagues across our rugby community, prior to a vote being taken. As one of the Council’s major Constituent Body members, this is a point that I made very clearly to the Council.

I have, at the time of writing, received some 20 e-mails from past and current male adult players questioning the rationale for the decision. I have answered these, including with reference to the attached links. I hope that this further information will help you to better understand some of the research upon which the decision was based. In addition, I would encourage you to read the material that was  published in the most recent Community Game Update, which not all players and administrators may see on a regular basis. This is being sent to all Kent Clubs in the January bulletin and being placed on the County website.

Roger Clarke

Chair, Executive Committee
RFU Council member for Kent

Links. Other links with further information will be added in due course.

Please click here for the Community Game Update .

The game communications specific to the tackle height change is available HERE.

Further reading on ‘Lowering the legal height of the tackle: The six year process’ can be sourced HERE!

Rationale and evidence paper HERE

Tackle Height Science Presentation HERE