Scottish Rugby confirms lower tackle height law trials for community rugby

Scottish Rugby confirms lower tackle height law trials for community rugby

Following consultation with community rugby stakeholders, Scottish Rugby’s Club Rugby Board (CRB) has approved a lower tackle height law trial for implementation across the community game, from the start of the 2023/24 season.

The law trial, will now see tackle height reduced from shoulder height to below the sternum, also known as ‘belly tackle’ height, in both gender categories of adult and youth rugby at the domestic level (Tennent’s Premiership and below).

The move to lower the tackle height follows World Rugby endorsed trials conducted in France and South Africa, where lowering the tackle height has been shown to reduce the number of head-on-head contacts and concussions.

Lowering the tackle height has also shown positive outcomes regarding increased ball-in-play time and offloading. The changes have also helped to increase player participation in France.

The new law trials which have been approved by the CRB are:

  • Maximum height tackle in initial contact must be below the sternum
  • The second tackler is still permitted, but the player must make initial contact below the sternum
  • There will be no change to the current laws regarding the ball carrier, but reckless play will be sanctioned (eg. leading with head) where the ball carrier put themselves or the defender at risk of a head-on-head contact

There will be no change to the current laws regarding a ‘pick and go’ scenario.

Scottish Rugby’s Rugby Development department were commissioned by the CRB to conduct a series of online consultation sessions in February with clubs, schools and referee societies.

Of those who participated in the consultation, 80 percent indicated they were in favour of the lower tackle height, with only six percent stating they were content with current laws.

Last month, World Rugby’s Executive Board recommended that national Unions participate in an opt-in global trial of lowering the tackle height in their respective community games to a below the sternum level.

To support the implementation of the law trials, Scottish Rugby has created a ‘Tackle Height Hub’ to host a suite of video and written resources on the changes, which will be added to throughout the summer.

In addition to this, the Rugby Development department will also deliver educational programmes for coaches, players and match officials both in the lead up to, and throughout the season, starting with a series of regional roadshows in May and June.

Scottish Rugby first implemented lower tackle height laws at age-grade level rugby for those playing at U15 level in the boys’ and girls’ game in 2017, but this is the first time the tackle height has been amended for all levels of domestic rugby in Scotland.

On the announcement, Keith Wallace, Scottish Rugby Vice President and CRB Chairman said: “Player welfare is of utmost importance to the representatives of the CRB, and as custodians for the community game, it is vital that we place safety and enjoyment at the heart of the decisions we make.

“We strongly believe reducing the tackle height from next season encompasses both of those matters and will create a more positive, and ultimately safer environment, in which our sport is played.

“It has been encouraging to see the level of engagement which those in our game met the consultation period with, and their receptiveness to the evidence from World Rugby’s endorsed trials.

“I would like to share my thanks to the Rugby Development department for leading the consultation process in a very thorough, professional and engaging manner and to all those who took part, as it formed an invaluable part of our decision-making process.”

Gavin Scott, Director of Rugby Development added: “Wellbeing is one of the core pillars of Scottish Rugby’s strategy, and overall player experience and standards of player welfare, including reducing concussion rates, is central to this. This is why the new law trials on reducing the tackle height have been so important to consider and consult on.

“I would like to thank all those who took part in the consultation. It provided significant insight into how those at the heart of our game feel, and I’m pleased the overwhelming majority believe in the benefits of tackle height reduction.

“We will now work closely with our clubs, schools and referee societies to ensure their players and volunteers are supported and prepared for the changes, whilst also having a clear understanding of how they can support Scottish Rugby to monitor the impacts of the trial to player welfare throughout the season.”

Mark Harrington, World Rugby Chief Player Welfare & Rugby Services Officer said: “It is great to see Scottish Rugby joining unions across the world in opting-in to the global law trial on lowering the tackle height in the community game.

“Scottish Rugby has provided the model for the rest of the world to follow when it comes to their open engagement and thoughtful consultation with everyone involved in the game in Scotland.

“We now look forward to the next stage on the journey together, towards a community game that is both as safe as it can be and more enjoyable than ever for everyone who plays the game in Scotland.”

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