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English rugby chiefs apologise over tackle plan for amateurs

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London — The English Rugby Football Union has apologised for its handling of the decision to lower the tackle height in the amateur game.

The RFU has endured fierce criticism following last week’s announcement that amateur players will only be able to tackle from the waist down.

Similar tackling rules have been in place in French lower-tier rugby since August 2019.

The rule would affect English clubs in divisions below the elite Premiership, second-tier Championship and women’s Premier 15s from July.

But with RFU chief executive Bill Sweeney potentially facing a no-confidence vote from grassroots clubs, the governing body said sorry for the controversial move on Friday.

“The RFU board, council and executive staff apologise for the anger and concern that has been created among the rugby community by announcing the decision to lower the tackle height from next season,” a statement read.

“In our desire to act quickly to reduce head impacts and concussions in the community game, which represents 99 percent of the rugby playing population in England, we have upset many of you who are the champions, volunteers and ambassadors of our game.

“We fully acknowledge we got the engagement wrong, and we are truly sorry.”

Rugby officials say they are required to use the law in an effort to reduce the risk of severe head injuries as rugby grapples with the issue of head injuries and concussions.

A group of former players diagnosed with early onset dementia and other irreversible neurological conditions are involved in a legal action, alleging negligence by a number of governing bodies.

But the RFU will now consult members of the wider rugby community in a bid to reach a solution that satisfies both the amateur game and the authorities.

“In making our decision, we were aware that France have lowered the tackle height, New Zealand will be doing so and World Rugby supports this approach,” the statement said.

“We, like the French, used the term ‘waist and below’; this has caused misunderstanding and confusion.

“We would now like the game to help us define how we describe a lower tackle height to reflect what the research is telling us in a way that is understood by all.”

AFP

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