How will new sanctions on high tackles impact on rugby?

Dr Barry O'Driscoll discusses some of the pitfalls which accompany new tackling rules in rugby

BY Cian Roche 21:30 Tuesday 3 January 2017, 21:30 3 Jan 2017

Image: Rob Griffith / AP/Press Association Images

In an attempt to reduce the number of head injuries in rugby, World Rugby have introduced measures that will see new sanctions to deal with the issue of high tackles.

Rules come into effect on January 3 which clamp down severely on tackles above the shoulders. On the reckless front, players deemed to have made a reckless contact during contact, attempted tackle or other phases of the game if in making contact that player knows or should have known that there is a risk in making contact with the head, it will incur a minimum yellow card and a maximum of a red card.

These punishments come into play even if the tackle begins below the line of the shoulder. Accidental contact with the head, either directly or if contact started below the line of the shoulders, the player may still be punished. Accidental collisions will likely encompass incidents were players slip into contact and the minimum sanction in this case is a penalty.

Speaking on Tuesday's Off The Ball, Dr. Barry O'Driscoll, a former Ireland international and former IRB chief medical adviser, gave his thoughts on the rules.

"Broadly, I am in favour [of the new rules]," he said. "It's going to be a long old haul, but the game now is dependent on the physicality, certainly at a professional level and the amateur and schools game follow that. Since so many rugby league coaches came in, the prevention of offloading the ball in the tackle has become vital and paramount and therefore high tackles have come in a lot more than they used to."

You can listen to tonight's full discussion by clicking the link below.

One of the problems, Dr O'Driscoll states, is the fact that because this has been introduced in the middle of the northern hemisphere season, enforcing these rules may prove tricky.

"In the heat of the game, the difference between a reckless tackle and an accidental tackle, referees will have to get that right every time. That's going to be almost impossible. There will be mistakes made. Hopefully they even out for each side, because coaches are just worried about their side. 

"The coaches are also worried about the game becoming less figure. It's going to open up the game a bit more and make coaching slightly more difficult. Balls will be able to be offloaded and I think it will lead to more open rugby. That'll be a very good sign but the refereeing will be very difficult."

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