There is a law change that will be introduced for the 2021/22 season which will see the tackle height made consistent across all contact levels of age grade rugby in England.
The new law is part of a continual evolution of player welfare initiatives. This important piece of work builds on everything already done in the age grade game over the last decade to put in place a building block approach to full contact rugby.
Further detail and support will be provided throughout the summer for players, coaches, schools and colleges. However, a here is a summary following the law change approval by RFU Council.
What can you expect for 2021/22 following this law change?
The existing rules for those playing full contact rugby at U9 to U14 levels has an imagined line between the armpits as the maximum height of a legal tackle. This will continue.
Under the law change, these rules will now extend across all U15 to U18 age groups, bringing the tackle height down from shoulder level (as per previous rules) to the armpit.
This means that all age grade players from U9-U18 will play to the same tackle height law.
Players participating at U7 and U8 level will continue to play non-contact rugby, as is the case now.
There are also other rugby options available including tag, touch and adapted versions of the contact game such as X-rugby for those players wanting to play variations from the full contact version of the game.
Why the change?
While the age grade and professional game cannot be realistically compared, the aim of the law change is to further reduce any community game high risk tackle events by taking two heads out of the same “air space”.
The approach has the potential to reduce the number of head impacts as well as change the shape of the game, with fewer rucks and more offloads.
There is an opportunity to use the law regarding tackle height to reduce head-to-head contacts in front-on tackles when both players are upright (and their heads are in the same “air-space”).
As a result of no rugby in the 2020-2021 season due to Covid-19, all age grade players, except for next season’s U17 and U18 age grades, will only have experienced tackling below the line of the armpit. A continuation of the laws they were previously familiar with will support their reintegration back into the game.
Maintaining a single tackle height also supports the integration of players in the dual or triple age bands in the girls’ game.