World Rugby alters high tackle, shoulder charge guidelines

World Rugby have issued a law application guideline and some supporting educational materials designed to assist with the on-field decision-making process for high tackle and shoulder charges and what sanctions should be applied in each instance.

Reflecting the world body’s evidence-based approach to reducing the risk of concussion, the “decision-making framework for high tackles” was developed in partnership with union and various competition delegates attending a player welfare symposium in France last month and included input by players, coaches, match officials and medical officers. 

It is a simple-step by step guide with the purpose of:

– Improving the consistency in application of on-field sanctions by distinguishing between dangerous tackles that warrant a penalty, yellow card or red card.

– Supporting protection of the head of both players by consistently and frequently sanctioning the tackle behaviour that is known to be the highest risk.

With research demonstrating that 76 per cent of concussions occur in the tackle, with 72 per cent of those to the tackler, and that head injury risk is 4.2 times greater when tacklers are upright, the framework is aimed at changing player behaviour in this priority area, via the promotion of safer technique and builds on the January 2017 edict on tougher sanctioning of high tackles.

The decision making process focuses on the source of direct contact to the head, the degree of force and, for the first time, any mitigating or aggravating factors that may be applied by the match officials. 

One wonders whether these guidelines will apply to Owen Farrell?