Hull RUFC director of rugby Mike Umaga believes the RFU’s decision to lower the height of tackle will increase the pressure on referees. Authorities agreed to introduce the change from next season from National League One and lower. In their statement, the RFU said: “To support player welfare, the RFU Council agreed on Monday 16th January to lower the height of the tackle across the community game from July 1 2023.
“Designed to improve player safety and informed by data, this change aims to reduce head impact exposure and concussion risk in the tackle for both the ball carrier and tackler.
“Evidence from studies has consistently demonstrated that higher contact on the ball carrier and closer proximity of the ball carrier and tacklers’ heads are associated with larger head impacts (as measured by smart mouthguards) and an increased risk of concussion.
“Lowering the height of the tackle and encouraging the tackler to bend more at the waist will minimise the risk of this occurring while maintaining the tackle as an integral part of the game.”
The move has been met with widespread criticism with over 60,000 signatures on a petition to reverse the decision. Ireland captain Johnny Sexton has suffered a number of concussions throughout his career and he does not think the rule change will reduce the number of head injuries. Umaga does not see a reversal in the rule change happening, and believes concussions could still occur with contact to hips and knees. Players have a split second to make a tackle and Umaga has sympathy for officials who have to make the call.
“I think it’s going to make it even harder for officials to manage,” Umaga said.
“I don’t think the rule will be changed back and it will take a lot of monitoring.
“Rugby has always evolved and will continue to, and there are a lot of technicalities to the game.
“There is always pressure on referees, but that pressure will be greater now.
“As coaches, we have to uphold our side of the bargain and make sure players are coached properly.
“There shouldn’t be too much transition, but it’s about reaction time and that split second before making a tackle.
“It’s going to be tough and it will be interesting to see how it goes.
“I can see what they are getting at, and hopefully it will have the desired affect.
“There are still a lot of hard bones in the tackle area such as the hip and knee, but players don’t always get their technique right.”