World Rugby has further strengthened its commitment to injury prevention by announcing details of a zero-tolerance approach to reckless and accidental head contact in the sport.
While injuries in the game are not on the rise, the federation continues to be proactive in furthering evidence-based strategies to reduce injury risk for all players.
In a change to law, World Rugby has redefined illegal (high) tackle categories and increased sanctions to deter high tackles via a law application guideline. This will apply at all levels of the game from 3 January 2017 introducing minimum on-field sanctions for reckless and accidental contact with the head, effectively lowering the acceptable height of the tackle.The guideline will be supported with a global education programme.
From 3 January, two new categories of dangerous tackles will carry penalty offences to deter and eradicate high tackles:
These are Reckless tackle and Accidental tackle
A player is deemed to have made reckless contact during a tackle or attempted tackle or during other phases of the game if in making contact, the player knew or should have known that there was a risk of making contact with the head of an opponent, but did so anyway. This sanction applies even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders. This type of contact also applies to grabbing and rolling or twisting around the head/neck area even if the contact starts below the line of the shoulders.
When making contact with another player during a tackle or attempted tackle or during other phases of the game, if a player makes accidental contact with an opponent's head, either directly or where the contact starts below the line of the shoulders, the player may still be sanctioned. This includes situations where the ball-carrier slips into the tackle.
For more information and guidance on implementing the new law, application guidelines can be found at: http://laws.worldrugby.org/guidelines
World Rugby has also developed an educational video which will further explain the Law Application Guideline and can be found HERE.
The new measures come as a positive contribution to the game and support the research and work that the RFU does to ensure rugby is as safe as possible, with player welfare at the heart. As a result of these changes, World Rugby has announced amendments to the disciplinary process and regulations that all Unions are required to adopt from January 3.