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.
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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.
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.