Tackling above the waist will be banned in community rugby matches from next season to “reduce head impact exposure and concussion risk”, the Rugby Football Union (RFU) said on Thursday.
The RFU added that ball carriers would be encouraged to “follow the principle of evasion” and avoid “late dipping”.
“Designed to improve player safety and informed by data, this change aims to reduce head impact exposure and concussion risk in the tackle for both the ball carrier and tackler,” the governing body said in a statement.
“Evidence from studies has consistently demonstrated that higher contact on the ball carrier and closer proximity of the ball carrier and tacklers’ heads are associated with larger head impacts (as measured by smart mouthguards) and an increased risk of concussion.
“Lowering the height of the tackle and encouraging the tackler to bend more at the waist will minimise the risk of this occurring while maintaining the tackle as an integral part of the game.”
The RFU said the changes would be enacted from July 1 and would apply to the community game at clubs, schools, colleges and universities, as well as National One and below in the men’s game and Championship One and below for women.
“Players’ welfare must always be at the centre of decisions we make about how we play the game of rugby,” RFU president Nigel Gillingham said.
“… the RFU will continue its work to reduce head impacts in contact training in both the community and elite games and be supportive of any law changes that World Rugby proposes for matches at the elite level that will further reduce head impact exposure.”
More than 55 amateur rugby union players sent a letter of claim to World Rugby, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) and the RFU on Thursday to begin the pre-action phase of their lawsuit over possible brain injuries.
The players allege that rugby’s governing bodies negligently failed to protect them from concussion and non-concussion injuries that caused various neurological disorders, including early onset dementia, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and motor neurone disease.
A group of ex-professional players brought a similar claim against those rugby bodies and the Rugby Football League in July last year.