United Kingdom

Premiership coaches unconvinced by new tackle law

Gloucester’s George Skivington and Bristol’s Pat Lam are among those who have reservations around the tackle rule changes from the RFU

Premiership head coaches have expressed concern about new laws on tackle height due to be implemented in the community game.

The rules affect clubs in divisions below the Premiership, Championship and Premier 15s.

“I don’t think it’s smart,” Gloucester head coach George Skivington told BBC Radio Gloucestershire.

“I don’t think it’s been well-received and rightly so, if I’m honest. I think some more adjustments will need to be made because I don’t think that’s a practical solution.

“The tackle height could come down and that could be a real solution, possibly you go below the nipple or something like that. But I think you’re asking for trouble going below the waist like that.”

The RFU said the changes were being made to improve player safety, particularly around the issue of head injury and concussion, which has been a point of concern at all levels of rugby.

However there is scepticism over whether the rules will make tackling any safer, especially for the player doing the tackling.

“I think it might be much better for the ball carrier, maybe not necessarily for the tackler,” Bristol director of rugby Pat Lam told BBC Radio Bristol.

“I understand the intent to improve the safety of the game. I think the key is the flexibility of making a change, seeing how it goes but not being afraid to reverse that or change it again to make it safer.

“I 100% agree that we want to make the game safer – [but] not sure if this law change will make it safer for the tackler.”

Clubs in the Premiership, like the community organisations who will be affected, were not included in the RFU’s consultations.

The RFU have since stated that they will seek guidance from clubs after the announcement was greeted poorly by those in the community game.

The subject will be discussed again at an RFU council meeting on 13 February.

“I think we need to know a lot more around the structure of what the rules will be around the ball carrier, what the rules will be around assist tacklers,” Exeter director of rugby Rob Baxter told BBC Sport.

“There’s an awful lot more we have to know in context before we make too many decisions on how it would suit the community game.”

‘Don’t lose the essence of rugby’

While the rules will not be brought into the elite level of rugby, Baxter said a trickle effect would mean it would still impact the Premiership when it comes to recruiting young players and those on dual registration deals with other clubs.

“Will it affect how we look to use loan clubs, build up players to come into the professional environment? Of course it will, because we have to try and prepare in the best way we can,” Baxter added.

“Once we know the full outline of all the rules and regulations, and what’s happening around it, then we will assess that very closely.”

For Bath head of rugby Johann van Graan, the biggest concern was how the changes would impact the spirit of rugby.

He reiterated that all the stakeholders need to be involved in decision-making.

“The main thing from my side is we’ve got to make sure we don’t lose the essence of our game,” Van Graan told BBC Radio Bristol.

“It’s a game for all shapes and sizes, and the way it’s played is the reason why we coach it, watch it and play it, and we’ve got to make sure we look after the game.

“Make it safer, yes, but we are playing a collision sport. Get all stakeholders involved and do what’s best for the game, and we’ve got to make sure we look after the game.”

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