The rapid increase of head injuries in recent seasons in the world of rugby has been a serious concern, not only for the teams, but for the authorities conducting the league as well.
The upcoming under-20 championship in France will see key changes to the rules of the game that could help in reducing the risk of head injury, particularly concussion, among players.
World Rugby revealed that they will trial the changes in the tournament, scheduled to commence from May 30, and could hand out bans to players for high tackles.
The ultimate aim of the governing body is to ensure the safety of the players on the pitch, and they are confident that lowering the height of the tackle would significantly reduce the rising number of injuries.
The final decision on the move was taken after series of revised on-field and off-field sanctions.
Speaking on the issue, Bill Beaumont, the chairman of World Rugby, said: “As a rugby father with sons playing at the elite and community level, I am committed to ensuring that rugby remains at the forefront of injury-prevention, specifically in the area of concussion.”
The research commission further provided detailed reports stating that 76 per cent of head injuries occur in the tackle, as the risk of injury to both players from contact is maximum when the tackler is upright is 4.3 times greater than in a low-contact tackle [when the tackler bends at the waist].
The U-20 championship will witness a warning from the match official for a high tackle if the tackler does not bend at the waist when tackling and there is clear and obvious head contact for either player.
Two warnings for the same player would result in a one-match ban. The chief also disclosed that the trail would not change the law in a major way, but would introduce post-match sanctioning through the citing process.
According to Law 9.13, the acceptable height of a tackle is the line of shoulders, although this will be lowered to ‘below the nipple line’.
World Rugby chief medical officer Dr Martin Raftery concluded by saying: “This trial is designed to remove the tackler’s head from a high-risk situation through a deterrent based on a combination of law amendment, sanction and technique change.”
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