Tuesday 20 August 2019

Concussion concerns lead to trial ban on tackles above waist level

The initiative has coincided with a 50 per cent drop in concussions across these two competitions compared to 2017 levels (stock photo)
The initiative has coincided with a 50 per cent drop in concussions across these two competitions compared to 2017 levels (stock photo)

Charlie Morgan

World Rugby has approved a radical trial that could outlaw tackles above the waist by 2021 in a bid to decrease the amount of concussions suffered by players.

The alteration, lowering the legal level from the line of the ball-carrier's shoulders, could first appear at community level in France and Georgia in the 2019-20 season.

It comes as part of a package of six proposed law amendments initially discussed at the governing body's player welfare and laws symposium five months ago. The amendments subsequently went through a "comprehensive evaluation" by World Rugby's law review group.

Three other changes will be trialled at the National Rugby Championship, the Australian domestic competition this month.

The first is the introduction of a 50:22 kick, with a team awarded a line-out if they kick the ball indirectly into touch from behind their own halfway line or indirectly into touch inside their opponent's 22.

Based on rugby league's 40:20 law, the aim is to force more defending players to drop back behind the defensive front line to cover kicks and create space for the attacking side.

Recently, teams have opted not to compete at the breakdown and packed their defensive line with as many as 14 players. Wales have enjoyed great success with this.

Another NRC trial will bring in a limit of penalties and free-kicks.

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Mandatory

A mandatory yellow card will be shown to the player who commits the infringement that reaches this designated - as yet undecided - number of offences.

Finally, 22 dropouts will be awarded to defending teams when the attacking team are held up over the try-line. Previously, such situations had resulted in a five-metre scrum to the attacking side. A faster rate of play, as well as a reward for effective defence, is the aim here.

There are two other proposed closed trials awaiting an appropriate host competition. They concern a high-tackle technique warning and the facility for officials to review a yellow card - and upgrade it to red if necessary - during an offender's sin-bin period.

The rugby unions of France, Australia, Fiji, Georgia, South Africa and Italy, as well as the Americas Rugby Championship, have shown a willingness to operate one or more of these approved trials.

High-tackle technique warnings were part of the past two World Rugby U-20 Championships. When a player receives two, following post-game reviews, they are banned.

The initiative has coincided with a 50 per cent drop in concussions across these two competitions compared to 2017 levels.

© Daily Telegraph, London

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