World Rugby encourages its affiliates to test belly tackles in community play to make the sport safer.
The global governing body’s executive board has recommended, subject to the approval of the World Rugby Council, that national unions consult on reducing tackle height at non-elite level to reduce concussions caused by direct contact between a tackler and the Ball are caused -Carrier.
World Rugby’s recommendation is that the height should be set below the breastbone, also known as ‘belly tackle’.
World Rugby Council will not meet until May to consider this proposal for approval, but World Rugby is making this announcement to allow unions to deliberate fully ahead of their new season.
The trials will be opt-in – unions are not required to take part, but it is understood nearly all give World Rugby’s recommendation serious consideration.
World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin said his organization also hopes to see a reduced tackle height trial in elite play and would not rule out future legislative changes that would reduce tackle height at the highest level.
“There’s growing evidence that doing nothing is just not an option,” Gilpin said.
“Especially in the community game, we have to reduce direct contact. We must see these proposals as an opportunity to grow the sport at a community level while reducing player risk.”
Globally, there have been mixed reactions to initiatives aimed at lowering sebum levels.
In England, Rugby Football Union faced widespread criticism after it announced plans in January to ban tackles above the hip in community play from next season.
The RFU apologized for the way it communicated its proposal and has launched a new consultation phase on the matter.
An attempt to lower tackle height to the waist – above the shorts line – was commissioned in the French Community Play and endorsed by World Rugby in 2019 with some encouraging results.
Gilpin reported a 63 percent reduction in direct contact and a 16 percent increase in participation. The study also found that changing tackle height allowed ball carriers to make a greater number of throws, which improved the flow of the game.
Last year New Zealand consulted on lowering the tackle height below the breastbone, while Scottish Rugby Union last month began its consultation on the tackle height of the community game.
World Rugby’s Chief Player Welfare and Rugby Services Officer Mark Harrington tried to allay fears that the changes would restrict the game to players with certain body types.
“That’s definitely not the intention,” he said.
“Unions have flexibility in terms of the level at which they undertake this. Our recommendation is below the breastbone. We certainly wouldn’t consider recommending that every tackle be a chop tackle around the ankles, which is admittedly challenging for big boys. There are some that could take it to nipple level.
“People say we’re trying to ground the game. We’re not, we’re just trying to get heads from the same room.
Asked about the reaction to the RFU’s proposals, Gilpin said: “We understand that change is a challenge. People who are already in the rugby community to some degree will resist changes to what they know and we understand that.
“This is about educating society as a whole. This consultation phase is really crucial. You have to try to take the team game with you, and that doesn’t mean it’s easy because there will always be resistance.
“But again, the evidence is clear. While there will be some challenges again in the near term, we believe the evidence shows that this will make the game more appealing to more people.”
World Rugby will support affiliated unions with training resources, with training technique programs being mandatory before any court proceedings begin.
Unions are also being encouraged to measure the impact of the trials, which World Rugby says will be reviewed in the second quarter of 2025.
The steps to improve security come at a time when separate court cases are ongoing with elite and community players.
However, World Rugby insists this is an initiative driven by scientific evidence and not a response to a legal challenge.