Tackle Height: Players Must Take Responsibility

Tomas Lavanini

This Rugby World Cup has already set a record for the most red cards in a tournament. Rightly so. If we are being honest, it could and should have been a higher number of them dished out. World Rugby do have to take some responsibility for the consistency of some refereeing decisions to ensure it is easier for fans and players to understand. Nobody would argue if any borderline decisions were judged on the harsher side – it’s the only way players will learn.

However, it is the players that must take ultimate responsibility. They know exactly what ‘a mitigating factor’ constitutes and they wouldn’t have to worry about them if their body positions were correct in the first place. Mistakes happen, but I struggle to believe that fully paid professionals don’t train to tackle low. The only logical reason to go high is to wrap up the ball and you definitely wouldn’t lead with the shoulder or aim for the head if that was your aim.

It is such a shame for the viewer as well. Two games over the weekend promised to be good fixtures. Until Lavanini’s red card, Argentina v England had been a cracking contest, which unfortunately lasted for all of ten or fifteen minutes. After that, it wasn’t a match. That tip-tackle in Italy’s game was horrendous to watch and made even worse for the spectator as Italy threatened to claw their way back into the game. There was no way back after that.

These professionals need to stand up and realise that these ‘macho’ acts of trying to put in a big, dangerous hit are a danger to themselves and others. In a showpiece event, it may well put parents off letting their kids get involved as well. In addition, they can cost a team a potentially crucial shot at a victory that could define a tournament and spoil a contest entirely.

I hope that the referees keep dishing them out for any challenge that could warrant one, but hopefully the remaining fixtures won’t be defined by such actions.

By Joe Large

7 thoughts on “Tackle Height: Players Must Take Responsibility

  1. When you have players of six foot eight on the same field as ones of five feet five who are allowed to duck to make themselves three feet tall, some contact with the heads of the shorter men is almost inevitable and tall players are substantially disadvantaged. In many cases it seems to me that the ball carrier is at least as much at fault for head contact as the tackler, but the current laws in no way recognise this. The current witch hunt also ignores the fact that a large number of concussions are caused by contact with knee or hip (how Biggar and Sexton have survived getting their head on the wrong side so frequently is a mystery) due to poor tackling technique, and players flying into rucks making contact with the heads of others who are offering protection to the ball in a position so low that it is impossible to shift them legally. As much as possible needs to be done to protect players, but attackers should bear as much responsibility for player safety as defenders. This is not the case at present. Catchers of the high ball have learned to jump not just high but several metres forward in the air, deliberately leading with a high front boot but still expecting the penalty if they happen to hit someone while in the air. Too many laws either not working or being randomly interpreted at present.

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  2. I concur with the article and also refute that there should be mitigation for the big vs little argument. The players have a choice now between blasting someone into next week and run the risk of getting sent off or simply getting the man to ground. Big vs little I don’t agree with because fast and agile should have an advantage out in the open spaces – after all they don’t get dispensation for operating in the lineout or scrum… If people have to consider their tackle technique I am optimistic that it may open up a bit of space on the pitch as well as lower the risk of injury. I do however worry that games will be swung (and potentially ruined) on big calls, which is a great shame

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    1. As in life, It’s not that black & white SJ. The tacklees often deliberately dip their heads just before contact. Takes 2 to tango. The recipients simply must take some responsibility. Otherwise why is their mitigation considered with pens, yellow & reds? It’s a matter of degrees. Have to protect people from foul play, sure, but only other option is to ban tackling .

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  3. Agreed it isn’t black and white in mitigation Don and that for sure tacklees do put themselves in compromising positions. My point is that tacklers do have a choice. Taking the isolated case of Lavanini, he made choice to stick a big shot on Farrell – so much so that he isn’t even looking up or at him before the collision. If he was operating more sensibly within the current climate he would be more conscious that if something changed in (for eg) Farrell’s body position, he would have to adjust accordingly. The priority used to be (and to an extent always has been), getting the man to ground. My hope is that the new rules will make defenders prioritize the tackle as opposed to the hit / collision.

    If this is the case and it keeps tacklers on their toes then maybe space and soft shoulders will open up.

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    1. Think Lav was just unlucky SJ. Chest to chest with incidental contact in the head, neck region. When going for wrap tackles, doubt whether tacklers have time to think about all required precise adjustments. Why would a tackler deliberately go for a head clash? No pt, advantage unless you get away with it. Too high risk, especially at that early stage of game.

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