The top 10 most horrific tackles in international rugby


There's little doubt rugby is now considered one of the most physical sports on the planet.

Particularly over the last few years, with players getting bigger and stronger, injuries have become more frequent and increasingly dangerous.

That has put even more pressure on the referees and rugby's governing bodies to ensure players are protected as much as possible but given some of the tackles that are flying in during matches, that is much easier said than done.

With the Autumn internationals now in full swing, we've had a look at some of the worst tackles and challenges the game has seen, so prepare to wince a little.

10) Stuart Hogg on Dan Biggar (2014)

Hogg is better known for his elusive running than his malicious tackling. However, in this Six Nations match between Scotland and Wales, the full-back hits Dan Biggar very late following the latter's kick.

Late tackles do occur in rugby but the malicious nature of Hogg's jump into the Welsh fly-half is easily enough to make it into the top 10.

The commentators were shocked by the on-field awarding of the yellow card as it seemed to be an obvious red card.

9) Sonny Bill Williams' shoulder charge on Anthony Watson (2017)

This incident is less deliberate than the others on the list. However, the circumstances of the red card awarded to the Kiwi means this tackle simply cannot be left off.

The All Blacks were 1-0 up in their series against the British and Irish Lions at the time in 2017, before Williams became the first Kiwi to be sent off in a Test for over 50 years. He was also the first player in history to get sent off in a Lions test. The All Blacks gave a resilient attempt to survive the final 55 minutes with 14 men, but the Lions snatched a 24-21 victory.

8) CJ Stander's late hit on Pat Lambie (2016)

In Ireland’s tour to South Africa in 2016, CJ Stander attempted to charge down the South African fly half. However, Stander follows through and collides with Lambie.

The South African was knocked clean out and left the referee with little choice but to send the flanker off against the country where he was born. 

7) Andy Powell's high tackle on Richie McCaw (2010)

The game had all but finished in the 79th minute with the All Blacks beating Wales 37-18.

Clearly frustrated, Andy Powell saw an opportunity to lay down a marker on the New Zealand captain and did so with a shockingly high tackle.

Remarkably, he actually escaped a citing for it - crazy. 

6) Courtney Lawes on Jules Plisson (2015)

This tackle in the Six Nations clash between England and France will forever stick in the memory of those who watched the game live three years ago. Lawes is well-known for his hard-hitting, but this tackle on the French fly-half tops them all.

The tackle was momentarily after the fly-half had passed the ball but the combination of Lawes' pace and Plisson's body position meant the latter was sent flying.

Once again, though, Lawes escaped punishment.

5) Shane Williams sent spinning (2011)

Wales’ game against Australia in the 2011 World Cup was always going to be an intense affair.

With the score still at 0-0 in the 10th minute, Williams attempts a clearing kick close to his own try line but gets smashed by Tatafu Polota.

Williams' small stature meant he was literally sent spinning in the air off the pitch.

4) Alesana Tuilagi's high tackle on Jean De Villiers (2013)

The big Samoan winger was sent off for an extremely high tackle to the head of De Villiers five years ago.

It usually took quite a lot to bring the now retired South African centre down but this clothesline seemed to do the trick.

With no attempt from Tuilagi to wrap his arms, and with contact made directly to the head, the referee's decision was quite simple.

3) Bakkies Botha's headbutt on Jimmy Cowen (2010)

It wasn't the tackle itself that attracted so much attention in the first minute of this Tri-Nations clash in 2010 but Botha's indefensible act afterwards.

The lock was suspended for nine weeks after deliberately throwing his head into the back of Cowen's after making a tackle, having become frustrated he was being held back while initially chasing the ball.

2) Take your pick from three in England v South Africa (2002)

The Springboks are on our list again. This time for multiple illegal instances within a few seconds during their Test match against England.

Firstly, there is a very high tackle and swinging arm on Matt Dawson, a knee into Lawrence Dallaglio and a stamp on Phil Vickery just for good measure.

Later on, Jonny Wilkinson also found himself punched during a ruck, further evidence of South Africa's very obvious ploy to make the game physical.

1) Spear tackle on Brian O’Driscoll (2005)

Just a minute into the opening Test of the Lions' tour of New Zealand it became clear the All Blacks had a plan to injure Brian O’Driscoll.

Keven Mealamu and Tama Umaga teamed up to flip the Irish centre in a ruck and intentionally pushed him towards the ground on his head.

The Irish legend was somewhat fortunate he only suffered a dislocated shoulder, having made a desperate effort to move his head out of the way.

It could have been much, much worse.

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