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Tackle Behaviour

Tackle Behaviour

The IRFU Union Committee formally voted to opt into World Rugby’s global trial to lower the tackle height in the community game to below the line of the sternum on June 1st 2023.

It followed an earlier vote by the IRFU Rugby Committee and an extensive community consultation process with Irish Rugby stakeholders. The trial will apply to all amateur IRFU and provincial competitions at age-grade and adult levels in clubs and schools for the 2023/24 and 2024/25 seasons.

Below you will find an overview of the trial, resources and information, a summary of the consultation process and other useful information.

Please check the Resources & Information tab for the most recent updates from the IRFU

New World Rugby and laboratory studies have shown that head injury risk is at its highest when tackles are made to the head and shoulder and lowest when tackles are made to the belly area.

The purpose of this trial will be to incentivise greater use of the belly tackle and ultimately reduce incidents of head-on-head impact in the tackle.

For the purposes of the trial World Rugby Union Law 9.13 will read as follows:

IRFU Tackle Height Law Trial – 2023/24 and 2024/25:

“Dangerous tackling includes, but is not limited to, tackling or attempting to tackle an opponent above the line of the sternum* even if the tackle starts below the line of the sternum.”

*Previously: Shoulder (a horizontal line drawn from top of one armpit to the other)

Rucks and Mauls will not be affected by this law trial as they are covered under Law 9.20 (Dangerous Play In A Ruck Or Maul).

Nearly half of all tackles involve more than one tackler and so for the purpose of clarity, the legal tackle height of below the sternum would apply to all tacklers.

A law trial would not change the ability for an attacking team to carry out a “pick-and-go” play, but law application guidelines may apply where any player has initiated shoulder-to-head/neck or head-to-head/neck contact.

Rugby Union Law 9.11 currently states that: “Players must not do anything that is reckless or dangerous to others including leading with the elbow or forearm, or jumping into, or over, a tackler.” As always, a strict approach will be applied to reckless or dangerous play by a ball carrier.

This will include a ball carrier leading with their head or initiating contact with their head.

Click Here To Complete Irish Rugby Legal Tackle Height Adjustment Trial Education Module

Additional Training Module

As part of the ongoing education and support for the Tackle Law amendment the IRFU are pleased to release a new microlearning module developed by the Tackle Behaviours working group. The module has 4 short videos which outline the possible sanctions, along with 2 questions on each, they will take no more than 5 minutes in total to complete and should be utilised by all players, coaches and officials involved in the domestic game.

To access the module please click here, https://rise.articulate.com/share/i52XT40B-nilLM76GLFRO7qEa6ZUTYoY

IRFU Tackle Behaviour Working Group: Tanya Abbas, Kevin Beggs, Sean Brassil, Colm Finnegan, Alex Hunter, Dr Jennifer Kavanagh, Colin McEntee, Dr Rod McLoughlin, Colin Moran, Ultan O’Callaghan, Ross O’Donoghue, Dudley Phillips, Jamie Turkington, Dr Caithriona Yeomans.

Resources & Information:

Publication Date Resource
July 17th Tackle Trial Guide For Inter-union Fixtures
July 3rd 2023 IRFU Begin Briefings With Provincial Age Grade Squads
June 26th 2023 Irish Rugby Legal Tackle Height Decision Making Framework
June 15th 2023 Irish Rugby Legal Tackle Height Education Module
June 10th 2023 Irish Rugby Legal Tackle Height Adjustment Trial Video
June 1st 2023 IRFU Opt Into World Rugby Tackle Trial
May 11th 2023 World Rugby Confirms Lower Tackle Height Law Trials For Community Rugby
April 30th 2023 RFU Tackle Height Hub
April 18th 2023 Webinar: Open Engagement On Law Trial
April 17th 2023 Online Feedback Form For Law Trial To Lower Tackle Height
April 13th 2023 IRFU Proposed Law Trial To Lower Tackle Height And Reduce Head-On-Head Impact In Amateur Rugby
April 12th 2023 Case Study: Scottish Rugby Tackle Height Hub
March 20th 2023 IRFU Community Consultation Webinar On Tackle Behaviours:
Introduction (Colin McEntee, IRFU)
Consultation Process Overview (Colm Finnegan, IRFU)
The Case For Lowering Tackle Height In Community Rugby (Ross Tucker, World Rugby)
World Rugby’s Proposal Overview (Ross O’Donoghue, IRFU)
March 14th 2023 Changing Tackle Behaviour To Reduce Head-On-Head Impact In Amateur Rugby: Analysis And General Considerations (IRFU Medical Dept) 
March 13th 2023 World Rugby Recommends Global Trial Of Legal Tackle Height Below Sternum In Community Game
March 12th 2023 IRFU Webinar Invite: World Rugby Sports Scientist Ross Tucker To Present On Tackle Behaviour
March 8th 2023 Memo To Clubs/Schools including Consultation Overview

On March 16th, the IRFU hosted a webinar with World Rugby Sports Scientist Ross Tucker as part of its community consultation process on changing tackle behaviour to reduce head-on-head impact. This is IRFU Rugby Development Director Colin McEntee’s introduction to the webinar.

This is a short presentation from IRFU National Rugby Development Manager Colm Finnegan with an outline of the IRFU’s Community Consultation Process On Tackler Behaviour in the amateur game.

In this feature presentation, World Rugby Sports Scientist Ross Tucker makes a case for lowering tackle height in the community game.

This is a short presentation from IRFU Communications Manager For Domestic Rugby Ross O’Donoghue on World Rugby’s Proposal To Lower Tackle Height In The Community Game.

Those who registered for the webinar were asked to complete a short sentiment survey. The results are below. [Sample Size: 503]


IRFU Community Consultation Process – Summary

PHASE 1 – Internal Assessment (JAN-FEB ’23)

  • IRFU Medical Dept presented new evidence from existing trials, studies and medical research to IRFU Union Committee.
  • IRFU Union Committee voted to commence consultation process.
  • Irish Rugby staff consultations – 100+ IRFU and provincial staff.

PHASE 2 – Community Notification (MAR ’23)

  • Detailed memo published and issued to club honorary secretaries and school principals with overview of consultation process.
  • IRFU Medical Dept information guide published and distributed.
  • World Rugby proposal distributed.
  • World Rugby invited to present to Irish Rugby stakeholders.

PHASE 3 – Community Engagement (MAR – APR ’23)

  • 500+ Webinar Registrations for Consultation Process Overview, World Rugby Proposal Overview and Presentation From World Rugby On The Case For Lowering Tackle Height In Community Rugby.
    • All participants invited to ask questions and provide feedback.
    • All participants take part in sentiment survey.
  • IRFU publish details of proposed law-trial to lower tackle height.
  • IRFU share invite to World Rugby Player Welfare & Laws Symposium event on Tackle Height.
  • Scottish Rugby tackle height case study published.
  • Written feedback form added to IrishRugby.ie.

PHASE 4 – Evaluation & Recommendation (APR-MAY ’23)

  • 100+ attend series of open engagements with IRFU/Provincial Staff; Match Officials; Age-Grade & Schools stakeholders; Junior & Senior Club stakeholders.
    • Participants invited to share feedback on proposed law trial
    • Participants asked to take part in polls to capture sentiment.
  • Evaluation of feedback captured during consultation process.
  • Formal recommendation to IRFU Rugby Committee
  • IRFU Rugby Committee and IRFU Union Committee vote to opt into global trial.