The RFU apologise for the anger and concern created among the rugby community


Since the RFU made its original announcement, saying that it proposes to amend the Law to reduce the height of the tackle, we have received many representations from past players, coaches and elected officials from clubs across Kent. All have expressed strong views and posed a range of questions regarding the details of the change itself and its longer-term impact, especially with regard to the Community Game. As your Council Member, I have done my best to reply to all of these, to help clarify the position and to answer your questions.

As a result of the concern that has been expressed and in some cases anger at the announcement, an additional Council meeting was held on Thursday evening (26 January). As a result, the RFU issued a further statement (below) on Friday afternoon (27 January), apologising to the whole game for the way in which the communication and lack of consultation was handled.

The statement mentions that consultation on the tackle height will commence immediately, with invitations extended to players, coaches, match officials, and volunteers to attend workshops and forums to discuss in further detail how a law variation on tackling can be introduced. Kent will continue to be fully involved in this exercise and we will aim to ensure that as many as possible from Kent clubs will be given the opportunity to participate in these events, which will be held locally; we hope in clusters.

Please see the statement below and also look at the further links to the supporting evidence and thinking paper and to a tackle height science presentation. In addition, if you have further questions or comments, please continue to get in touch and I will do my very best to deal with them, unless they relate to detailed scientific questions, in which case I may refer them to the relevant RFU or World Rugby expert for a response.

Roger Clarke, RFU Council Member for Kent

The RFU Board, Council and executive staff apologise for the anger and concern that has been created among the rugby community by announcing the decision to lower the tackle height from next season. 

In our desire to act quickly to reduce head impacts and concussions in the community game, which represents 99% of the rugby playing population in England, we have upset many of you who are the champions, volunteers, and ambassadors of our game. We fully acknowledge we got the engagement wrong, and we are truly sorry.

In making our decision we were aware that France have lowered the tackle height, New Zealand will be doing so and World Rugby supports this approach.

We, like the French, used the term “waist and below”; this has caused misunderstanding and confusion. We would now like the game to help us define how we describe a lower tackle height to reflect what the research is telling us in a way that is understood by all. Consequently, the risk of head injuries should be reduced if tackling below that optimum height. We will now begin a series of forums and workshops with players, coaches, match officials and volunteers, to explain and develop the details of the domestic law variation. 

A large body of scientific evidence (links to documents below) demonstrates the risk of head injury and concussion for players can be reduced by lowering the tackle height to prevent head on head contact. However, we also accept that the rugby community has other concerns that this change may bring and we need to listen, understand and respond to those concerns. We will start inviting players, coaches, match officials and volunteers to these forums from early next week, so that we can all work together.