RFU apologises for handling of tackle height decision

The Rugby Football Union has apologised for its handling of the decision to lower the tackle height across the English community game to the waist.

The RFU has been subjected to a furious backlash in response to the announcement made last week, with chief executive Bill Sweeney potentially facing a no confidence vote from grassroots clubs.

“The RFU board, council and executive staff apologise for the anger and concern that has been created among the rugby community by announcing the decision to lower the tackle height from next season,” a statement read.

The move to lower the tackle height from July 1 was unanimously approved by the RFU council in an attempt to support player welfare, notably reducing head impact exposure amid the concussion lawsuits faced by the sport’s governing bodies.

It will apply to all levels outside the professional game, which is comprised of internationals, the Premiership and Championship, but first the RFU will begin a widespread period of consultation to set the definition of a low tackle.

“In our desire to act quickly to reduce head impacts and concussions in the community game, which represents 99 per cent of the rugby playing population in England, we have upset many of you who are the champions, volunteers, and ambassadors of our game. We fully acknowledge we got the engagement wrong, and we are truly sorry,” the statement continued.

“In making our decision we were aware that France have lowered the tackle height, New Zealand will be doing so and World Rugby supports this approach.

“We, like the French, used the term ‘waist and below’; this has caused misunderstanding and confusion. We would now like the game to help us define how we describe a lower tackle height to reflect what the research is telling us in a way that is understood by all.

“Consequently, the risk of head injuries should be reduced if tackling below that optimum height. We will now begin a series of forums and workshops with players, coaches, match officials and volunteers, to explain and develop the details of the domestic law variation.

“A large body of scientific evidence demonstrates the risk of head injury and concussion for players can be reduced by lowering the tackle height to prevent head on head contact.

“However, we also accept that the rugby community has other concerns that this change may bring and we need to listen, understand and respond to those concerns.

“We will start inviting players, coaches, match officials and volunteers to these forums from early next week, so that we can all work together.”