World Rugby is to introduce a trial law change at under-20 competitions that lowers the height of tackle to “below the nipple line” to reduce the risk of head injury.
The current height for a legal tackle is in line with the shoulders. But, after research revealed that 76 per cent of head injuries occurred in the tackle, World Rugby believes the change could reduce risks, particularly of concussion.
World Rugby state that after conducting ‘unprecedented research from more than 1,500 elite matches’, 76 percent of head injuries occur in the tackle and 72 per cent of head injuries in the tackle occur to the tackler.
There will be two trial approaches. At the U20 Championship in France (30 May – June 17), a High Tackle Warning will be issued if the tackler is upright (i.e. not bent at the waist when tackling), and there is clear and obvious head contact for either player. This will be policed by both the match officials and the citing commissioner. When two high tackle warnings have been issued, a player will automatically receive a one-match suspension.
At the U20 Trophy (location and dates TBC), an amendment to Law 9.13 will operate, altering the definition of a high tackle from above the line of the shoulders to above the nipple line.
Law 9.13 will read: “A player must not tackle an opponent early, late or dangerously. Dangerous tackling includes, but is not limited to, tackling or attempting to tackle an opponent above the nipple line even if the tackle starts below the nipple line.”