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All you need to know: Championship Cup tackle height trial


Here is a summary to bring you up to date with the new tackle height trial which will take place in the Championship Cup.

What is the trial?


The trial is to assess the effect of lowering the permitted height of a tackle from the line of the shoulders to the armpit line. It will compare all 43 games in the pool stages and knock-out rounds of the Championship cup competition with Greene King IPA Championship league matches.


Why is it taking place?

Concussion is now the most common match injury in the professional game with 80% of all concussions occurring in the tackle. One third of concussions are sustained by the ball carrier and two thirds by the tackler or tacklers. 


The RFU has been working with World Rugby to better understand the factors that underpin the concussion risk in the tackle. Contact above the line of the shoulders on the ball carrier made by an upright tackler has been identified as an area of particularly high-risk for both the ball carrier and the tackler or tacklers. 


The tackle has changed in the last few years and now less than 20% of tackles in the adult professional game are made around the legs. However, between 35-50% of all tackles in the Championship and Premiership involve contact with the ball carrier made above the armpit line but below the line of the shoulders (12cms from the head). There are over 250 tackles in the average Championship game.    


This trial will assess whether a 12cm lower tackle height will actually change the behaviour of players and result in fewer concussions for both the ball carrier and the tacklers. The trial will also assess the effect on other injuries, the nature of tackles, and other game events. Game footage of all tackles made in the trial and normal Championship league matches will be analysed by video analysts. The decisions of the referees will be reviewed. Championship medical staff will record the injuries that occur.   


“The RFU is committed to an evidence-based approach to injury-prevention,” said Nigel Melville RFU professional rugby director. “We believe lowering the height of the tackle will benefit both the ball carrier and the tackler. The Championship Cup provides an opportunity for us to assess the impact of lowering the height of the tackle on the elite adult game and will be a critical part of helping us develop game-wide approaches to concussion and injury reduction.”


How will it work?


Meetings between Championship coaches, referees and players have being taking place to ensure that all three groups are well-prepared before the Cup games played with the lower tackle height. The referee’s application of the tackle laws and hierarchy of penalty, yellow card and red card has not changed. A red or yellow card will still be considered where there is contact with the head and neck of the ball carrier but contact made on a ball carrier above the line of the armpits but below the line of the shoulders will now result in a penalty. 


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