21 June 2023 / Club News


The Welsh Rugby Union has formally voted to opt into World Rugby’s global trial to lower the tackle height in the community game to below the base of the sternum next season.
It follows an earlier vote by the WRU to adopt the trial and an extensive community consultation process with Welsh rugby stakeholders. It also follows a process of engagement with over 1000 people actively involved in the Community Game actively which included 5 informative webinar sessions.
The trial will apply to all community games at age-grade (from U12) to Premiership (Women's and Girls) and Championship (Male) in the community game for the 2023-24 and 2024-25 seasons. This will include rugby in schools, colleges and universities. For avoidance of doubt at U12's the existing pathway tackle law of waist height and below will remain and not adhere to introduction of the new tackle height trial.
The Indigo Premiership sides will join the regional teams in being excluded from the trial at this stage.
“As the guardian of the game in Wales, the WRU bears the responsibility to make it as safe and as fun as possible,” said Geraint John, the WRU’s Community Rugby director.
“Since World Rugby recommended that the tackle height in rugby should be lowered, the WRU has engaged with more than 1,000 administrators, coaches, players and referees across the country to go through the reasoning behind the change and how it will be implemented.
“As a result, from 1 July 2023 the legal tackle height for the game at large in Wales will be below the base of the sternum.
“This will apply from under 12s to Premiership (Women's and Girls) and Championship (Male) in the community game.”
World Rugby and laboratory studies have shown that head injury risk is at its highest when tackles are made to the head and shoulder and lowest when tackles are made to the belly area.
The purpose of this trial is to ultimately reduce incidents of head-on-head impact in the tackle and to incentivise greater use of the belly tackle. It is interesting to note the following:
• 70% of concussions occur in the tackle
• Trials in France resulted in a 64% reduction in head-on-head contacts and a 23% reduction on concussions.
• The risk of concussion is 4.2 times higher when the tackler’s head is above the ball carrier’s sternum
• Research shows that lowering the tackle height protects both the ball carrier and the tackler from head-to-head contact
• The player that has most of the risk is the tackler
• It is a small adjustment for the tackler and still gives him / her a large target area to aim at.
  “As well as having a big impact on player safety, reducing concussions and head-on- head contact. this change is also expected to have positive technical and tactical implications for the game,” added John.
“There is likely to be an increase in the rate of offloads and a rise in line breaks, making the game more enjoyable. With more passes, offloads and potentially tries in a game, it should be more fun to play and watch. This has proven to be the case in French rugby.
“The continuity within the game is likely to increase through a decrease in the number of rucks.”
For the purposes of the trial World Rugby Union Law 9.13 will read as follows:
WRU Tackle Height Law Trial – 2023-24 and 2024-25
“Dangerous tackling includes, but is not limited to, tackling or attempting to tackle an opponent above the line of the sternum* even if the tackle starts below the line of the sternum.”
*Previously: Shoulder (a horizontal line drawn from top of one armpit to the other)
Rucks and Mauls will not be affected by this law trial as they are covered under Law 9.20 (Dangerous Play In A Ruck Or Maul).
Nearly half of all tackles involve more than one tackler and so for the purpose of clarity, the legal tackle height of below the sternum will apply to all tacklers.
The law trial will not change the ability of an attacking team to carry out a “pick-and- go” play, but law application guidelines may apply where any player has
initiated shoulder-to-head/neck or head-to-head/neck contact.
Rugby Union Law 9.11 currently states that: “Players must not do anything that is reckless or dangerous to others including leading with the elbow or forearm, or jumping into, or over, a tackler.” As always, a strict approach will be applied to reckless or dangerous play by a ball carrier.
This will include a ball carrier leading with their head or initiating contact with their head.
There are also implications for the SECOND TACKLER. A second tackler is
permitted (below the base of the sternum) and arriving players can attempt to compete or rip for the ball, providing the attempted rip is below the sternum.
With regards to the BALL CARRIER, they must not lower their height significantly before making contact with an opponent in open play. They are encouraged to evade and will be liable to a sanction if they lower their head below their hips or lead with their head.
As far as the PICK & GO is concerned, the ball carrier can ‘pick and drive’ whilst remaining in a low position. It’s acknowledged that tackles may be above the base of the sternum due to the body position of ball carrier, but that is a lower concussion risk area due to the velocity of the carry.
Observations from around the world made by other governing bodies who will be embracing the law from this summer make for interesting reading:
• Expect disruption in the first 12 weeks as players and referees get used to the new policy. It could take three years to fully embed (World Rugby)
  • It will result in more penalties initially, but the number will decrease significantly (FFR)
• It highlights a blatant lack of tackling technique (NZRFU)
• Player security will be enhanced (RFU)
• More people will play the game (FFR)
“We have already done a lot of work with coaches across the country, and this will continue in order to embed not only the new law, but also the technical aspects of tackle technique,” said John.
“We have been hammering home the ‘4Ls’ to our coaches -
Low – Adjust body height to make a safe and legal tackle
Look – Locate where contact is going to be made
Lock – Head firmly behind or to the side and arms held tightly around ball carrier Land – Complete the tackle by taking the ball carrier to the floor
“We are doing whatever we can to educate coaches and teachers on how best to tackle safely with correct technique and our hope is that pre-season training ahead of the 2023-24 campaign will allow players to make the necessary changes to their technique.
“The referees have also been working hard on their interpretation of the new law and we hope that fans will also understand the changes that are taking place and give players, referees and coaches a chance to adapt to these alterations.”
 For more information please visit the WRU Game Locker:


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