The Rugby Football League (RFL) in England has recently announced a significant change in the rules for tackles in the sport. By 2025, the legal height for tackles will be lowered to below the armpit at all levels of rugby league in England. This move is aimed at reducing the risk of head injuries and concussions in the game.
Australia’s rugby league has already implemented a similar rule, penalizing tackles above the armpit in under-15s and age groups below. However, this decision has sparked some controversy among players and coaches in Australia who believe it jeopardizes the traditional and physical nature of the sport.
Former NRL player Cameron King expressed his dissatisfaction with the decision, stating “RIP rugby league.” Many coaches and experts, on the other hand, argue that improving tackling techniques would make the game safer without necessitating a reduction in the tackle height.
Interestingly, the physicality of the National Rugby League (NRL) in Australia is being used to promote a doubleheader in Las Vegas in 2024. NRL players Aaron Woods and Campbell Graham even appeared on an NFL broadcast in the United States to promote the upcoming rugby league matches.
Nevertheless, not everyone is opposed to the RFL’s decision. Brisbane Tigers’ coach, Matt Church, believes that tackling techniques can be improved while still maintaining a physical game. Barry Cotter, president of the Newtown Jets, acknowledges that traditionalists may push back against these changes, but stresses the importance of prioritizing player safety and adapting to necessary modifications.
The RFL’s decision aligns with similar moves made by Rugby Australia (RA) in rugby union. The RA has also sought to reduce tackle heights below the sternum to prevent and decrease head injuries in the sport. Additionally, a Senate committee report in Australia has recommended further rule modifications to address and minimize head injuries in various sports.
Overall, the RFL’s announcement to lower the legal height for tackles in rugby league is a significant step towards prioritizing player safety and reducing head injuries and concussions. While some individuals express concerns about the impact on the physicality of the sport, others argue that tackling techniques can be improved to maintain a physical game. With similar changes being implemented in rugby union and recommendations from a Senate committee, it seems clear that the focus on head injury prevention is growing in the world of sports.
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