The Northland Age
New tackle height rules coming for club, 1st XV
Feedback from trial confirms change for safety is beneficial in community games
New Zealand Rugby has announced a significant reduction in tackle height to below the sternum across all community rugby, including senior premier club and school First XV grades.
The change is part of three game innovations that will be trialled for the 2023 community rugby season, designed to improve player safety, the flow of the game and keep the ball in play more.
NZR General Manager Community Rugby Steve Lancaster said the tackle height change reflected rugby’s ongoing commitment to improving player safety.
“We strongly believe that rugby offers so many benefits for our community participants that far outweigh the risk of injury. Our focus is on continuing to find ways to reduce that risk and make the game as safe as possible, while also preserving the social and individual benefits of the game.
“New Zealand Rugby and our rugby community continue to be world-leading in our approach to player safety and we can be really proud of that. This is a significant and positive change for the game.”
The new initiatives were trialled in selected grades last year and Lancaster said feedback from players, coaches and referees confirmed the focus on reducing tackle height was the right approach for the community game.
“Our participants have told us that they want to see improvements made to the tackle and breakdown areas, so that’s been our focus. The resounding feedback we’ve received from this season’s trials is that the game is more enjoyable to play and safer when the tackle height is reduced to below the sternum, or what some people will know as the belly.”
Feedback from community grades trialling the reduced tackle height in the 2022 season found that 78 per cent of participants believed it improved the tackler’s safety, 73 per cent felt it made the game faster and
New Zealand Rugby and our rugby community continue to be world-leading in our approach to player safety and we can be really proud of that. This is a significant and positive change for the game.
72 per cent thought there were more opportunities for offloads.
The trial will see the first tackler required to target the belly area below the sternum, with the second tackler still able to legally tackle below the shoulders in accordance with current rugby law.
After a successful trial across nonpremier senior and teenage rugby in 2022, restrictions around the defending halfback at scrums will now be extended to include all grades of community rugby, including senior premier club and First XV school rugby.
To improve attacking opportunities from scrums, halfbacks of the team not in possession will be required to remain one metre from the scrum and may not advance past the tunnel until the scrum has ended.
Senior club rugby grades (except for premier grades) are also set to continue trialling a maximum scrum push of 1.5 metres next season.