Ireland captain Johnny Sexton opposes RFU’s radical new tackle laws
The tackle height will be lowered to the waist from next season for all levels of English rugby outside the Gallagher Premiership and Championship
Ireland captain Johnny Sexton has expressed vehement opposition to the Rugby Football Union’s radical new tackle laws.
The tackle height will be lowered to the waist from next season for all levels of English rugby outside the Gallagher Premiership and Championship.
The amendment, which is being implemented in a bid to improve player safety, has led to fears of a mass exodus from the sport, particularly among taller players.
While Sexton acknowledged there was work to be done to reduce dangerous tackles, he strongly disagreed with the rule change.
“I don’t agree with it,” replied Sexton, when asked about the topic. “There’s no point sitting on the fence, is there?
“You’ve got tall people that play the game, it should be their decision to how they tackle.
“Of course, we have to get headshots out of the game but I think the tackles that we really need to get out of the game are the reckless, out of control, sprinting out of the line, tucking arms, all those type of ones.
“Hitting someone there (points to torso) should be an option.
“It’s not like you can’t get concussed chopping someone’s knees. I see a hell of a lot of concussions with people getting their head on the wrong side, a knee to the temple or a hip even to the side of the head.
“So, strongly disagree.”
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell fears the change could leave a tackling player as a “sitting duck” and more at risk of injury.
The Englishman said it was “absolutely crucial” coaching methods were adapted to reflect the law change, which currently will not affect Irish rugby.
“I think it’s super important that what has to come with that is the correct coaching and the correct way, the correct technique, because of the reasons Johnny has just said,” said Farrell.
“If you’re just saying to a kid that you need to tackle lower, then you become even more vulnerable in my opinion. If you’re just sitting there with your arms in front trying to wrap with your head down, you’re a sitting duck waiting to happen.
“So the coaching and the technique of how it’s applied to tackling below the waist is absolutely crucial – otherwise we’re going to have a serious problem.”
England head coach Steve Borthwick supports efforts to improve player welfare but is reserving judgement on the forthcoming rule change.
Borthwick, who took on the national team role last month following the departure of Eddie Jones, said he will coach his players to tackle lower.
“There are more details to come, that’s a key element here, a full understanding of that,” he said.
“The main thing is that globally we are trying to address this, to keep that physical intensity that we all love at its very core, and make it safe for generations.
“Whether this initiative is right, whether it’s going to be tweaked and changed, because we are going to learn, we are going to get better and we’re going to continue to try and make the game safe. That’s going to be the main priority.
“People are trying to find solutions. With the England team, we are going to make sure we coach the players to tackle lower.
“Do I think we want to change every habit straight away? No. Absolutely not. But we are going to be trying and we are going to be learning as we go.”Published: by Radio NewsHub