The Rugby Football Union (RFU) has confirmed that the Championship Cup tackle height trial will not continue for the knockout stages of the competition, which begin on Saturday 2 February.
As a result, match officials will revert to the original application of Law 9.13 for the knockout fixtures, with the definition of a high tackle moving back to above the line of the shoulders from above the armpit line which was the amend trialled in the pool stages of the competition.
“The RFU is committed to an evidence-based approach to injury-prevention,” said Nigel Melville RFU interim Chief Executive.
“This was always a trial and we weren’t sure what the outcomes would be. Our two main objectives were to determine whether through law change the height of the tackle can actually be reduced and if a reduction in the height of the tackle then leads to a reduction in concussion risk”
Data shows that the first objective of lowering tackle heights was achieved. There was a:
- 24% decrease in all tackles where contact was made by the tackler above the armpit line on the ball carrier
- 25% decrease in tackles where contact was made above the armpit line by an upright tackler on an upright ball carrier
- 41% decrease in the number of tackles where contact was made with the head or neck of the ball carrier
Despite achieving this first objective, there was an unanticipated increase in concussion risk to the tackler where contact was made above the armpit line with a bent at the waist ball carrier.
Melville added: “We need to analyse the data in more detail, but our preliminary analysis has shown all of these incidents occurred when a bent at the waist tackler was attempting to tackle a bent at the waist ball carrier following a short pass from the scrum-half. This is an area that the trial was not specifically looking to influence as the primary focus was to reduce the risk of concussion where ball carrier and tackler were both upright. We will be analysing this particular situation in more detail.
“Overall this has been an extremely valuable exercise. We’ve learnt a lot and tested an approach to reducing the risk of concussion in a real-life setting. We have shown that reducing tackle height is achievable and we already have useful and detailed data from the first 36 matches in this 43-game cup competition.”
The RFU is now analysing this data in more detail as it prepares a final report. This report will be taken for discussion to the World Rugby meeting in France in March.
“We want to thank all clubs, coaches, medics, management, players and fans for their support, understanding and engagement during the trial,” commented Melville.
“The RFU is constantly looking at ways to make the game safer and looks forward to taking this research to the World Rugby meeting in March and discussing ideas and challenges with other unions.