This weekend round 13 of the GUINNESS PRO12 will see the introduction of new law changes implemented by World Rugby that have redefined illegal (high) tackle categories and increased sanctions.
Following an extensive research programme examining 600 incidents in 1,516 elite-level matches globally between 2012 and 2015, World Rugby has redefined illegal (high) tackle categories and increased sanctions to deter high tackles via a law application guideline.
From January 3, 2017 the minimum on-field sanction for a reckless (high) tackle will be a yellow card with a maximum of red, while the minimum on-field sanction for an accidental (high) tackle will be a penalty.
These measures come in an effort to introduce a zero-tolerance policy across the game of rugby union towards reckless and accidental contact with the head.
Ed Morrison, Independent Referees Commissioner for the Guinness PRO12, welcomed the move by World Rugby.
“Player safety has to be the number one priority for everyone involved in rugby and this refocus on the directives issued before Rugby World Cup 2015, in addition to the higher sanction levels, will emphasise that,” said Morrison.
“For over a year, players have been aware that they are at risk of receiving a card if they go near the head or the neck and World Rugby has asked that officials are extremely vigilant when it comes to foul play. Referees and television match officials have all been briefed on this issue to ensure a consistent application of the new sanctions.
“The goal is to lower the height of the tackle and change the culture, with regard to reckless and accidental contact with the head.”
Statement from World Rugby
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 January 3, 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.
The approach, approved by the World Rugby Council after extensive expert, independent and union evaluation, combines with new disciplinary sanctions and a re-focus of match officials on dangerous play. It will provide a package of measures that aims to change culture in the sport to ensure that the head is a no-go area.
From January 3, two new categories of dangerous tackles will carry penalty offences to deter and eradicate high tackles:
Reckless 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.
Minimum sanction: Yellow card
Maximum sanction: Red card
Accidental Tackle –
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.
Minimum sanction: Penalty
Please note Disciplinary Panels have been alerted to the revised World Rugby Regulation 17 sanctions. Specific changes to Law 10.4(e) Dangerous tackling of an opponent has been highlighted below.
10.4(e) Dangerous tackling of an Opponent including: (i) a tackle or attempted tackle above the line of the shoulders even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders; (ii) grabbing and rolling/twisting around the head/neck area even if the contact starts below the line of the shoulders.
LE – 2 weeks
MR – 6 weeks
TE – 10+ weeks
(A dangerous tackle which results in a strike to the head shall result in at least a mid-end entry point sanction).