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Calls for World chiefs to look at legal tackle height


Grey area: RFU's Nigel Melville wants refereeing consistency
Grey area: RFU's Nigel Melville wants refereeing consistency

By Matt McGeechan

World Rugby have been asked to consider reducing the legal height for a tackle after a seventh successive season of increased incidents of concussion in the English professional game.

The Professional Rugby Injury Surveillance Project, jointly commissioned by the Rugby Football Union and Premiership Rugby, with the support of the Rugby Players' Association, reported injury data for the 2016-17 season.

Yesterday's report showed concussion was the most commonly reported match injury for the seventh straight year, contributing 22 per cent to the total.

And it suggested a World Rugby directive - to increase sanctions on tackles and take a zero tolerance approach to contact with the head, introduced in January 2017 - made "no difference" to the incidence of all injuries and concussion.

RFU medical services director Dr Simon Kemp said World Rugby were making their own analysis of data to consider a reduction in the legal height of a tackle which, RFU professional rugby director Nigel Melville said, is "a bit of a grey area".

Kemp said: "We would like World Rugby to give consideration to thinking about reducing the legal height for the tackle.

"There's very little margin for error with the permitted height of the tackle at the line of the shoulders. It's for World Rugby to consider and we know they're doing that at the moment."

Melville added: "It's become a bit of a grey area at times. We're looking for consistency across refereeing. It's challenging for World Rugby, with referees coming from different hemispheres, from different competitions."

The report showed concussion cases requiring more than a three-month absence had increased. That was attributed to "a trend to more conservative management of players who have sustained two or more concussions in a 12-month period".

For the first time, hamstring injuries and concussion appear alongside anterior cruciate ligament knee injuries in the top three match injuries resulting in an absence of 84 days or more.

Of the 169 concussions reported, 22 players suffered more than one concussion. One player suffered four and one player three.

The report showed 47 per cent of all match injuries are associated with the tackle, with an almost equal split between tackler and the ball carrier. Concussion accounted for 43 per cent of injuries to the tackler and 19 per cent to the ball carrier.

An eight-point Professional Game Action Plan was also announced. As well as addressing the tackle height, the plan vowed to undertake or continue research in player load, training injury risk and the impact of artificial grass pitches.

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