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Rugby Australia is testing out new regulations regarding the height at which players are allowed to tackle in order to address concerns about concussions.

Rugby Australia has announced that it will be conducting a new experiment where the permissible height for tackles in the game will be lowered below the sternum starting in February.

This study aims to decrease the chances of contact between the heads and shoulders of players carrying the ball and those tackling them. Research from World Rugby has revealed that the risk of concussion increases by over four times when the tackler’s head is positioned above the ball carrier’s chest.

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The new law, 9.13, will require referees to focus more on stopping ball carriers from “dipping” into a tackle, which can put both the player and the defender at risk of unsafe contact. However, the rule will still allow attacking players to start and continue with a low body height using the “pick-and-go” technique.

After Rugby Australia announced its backing for World Rugby’s worldwide research project in March of last year, a two-year experiment will be implemented in February for all levels of Rugby below Super Rugby. This decision follows over six years of research, which has previously included tests of reduced tackle heights in various countries such as France, England, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland.

Initial findings from South Africa indicate a 30% decrease in incidents of concussions, while France reported a 64% decrease in head-to-head collisions, along with a 14% rise in participation compared to pre-COVID levels.

From 10 February, 2024 until the end of 2025, this new law will be in effect for Australian rugby union competitions below Super Rugby. This includes school and pathway competitions, in order to safeguard young players in the code.

After their disastrous performance in the 2023 World Cup, where the Wallabies did not qualify for the finals for the first time in 36 years, Australian Rugby has faced a series of crises. This includes coach Eddie Jones resigning in October and CEO Hamish McLennan being removed from his position in a boardroom takeover last month.

The code is currently reconstructing its image in an attempt to secure its longevity. “Studies from various countries have clearly shown that safety is the primary concern preventing fans and potential players from participating in the sport,” stated Phil Waugh, CEO of Rugby Australia.

“It is impossible to remove all risk from the game, however we firmly believe that promoting safer tackle techniques, and reducing the risk of head contact and concussion will lead to an even safer game. I am confident our players and coaches at all levels of the game will continue to work on safe and effective tackle technique.”

Waugh recognized that there may be a transitional phase in enforcing the law, as rugby has faced criticism for its strict refereeing and nitpicky regulations.

The speaker requests that all parties show patience and respect as they begin this endeavor. In the previous French trial, there was a notable rise in penalties during the first year, but this was followed by a significant decrease in subsequent years as players and officials adapted to the new rules.

“We are committed to making decisions based on research and evidence that prioritize player safety in order to protect the integrity of the game.”

According to Michael Procajlo, General Manager of Community Rugby at Rugby Australia, World Rugby’s research has identified three distinct risk zones for tackling.

The safe area for tackling is the green zone, which covers the ball carrier’s torso from the sternum to the hips. According to statistics, there is slightly more risk when the tackle goes below the hips, making it the amber zone.

Nevertheless, the most significant danger arises when tackles exceed the level of the sternum and there is an increased likelihood of head-to-head or head-to-shoulder collision.

Source: theguardian.com