For those who haven’t seen the news (or perhaps not this specific story), I would like to point you to this story
First a little context regarding me. I played rugby at school for 7 years (receiving 1st XV colours) and then played for my University in first year. So I feel that my opinion is valid (feel free to disagree).
The news article says that over 70 ‘doctors and academics’ have called for a ban on tackling in rugby, saying that the “’high-impact collision sport’ can have lifelong consequences for children.” Their solution - remove tacking and play ‘touch rugby’ instead.
Now their argument has some material about it. 2/3 of rugby injuries/concussions of under 18s are due to poor tackles. And a big driving force of this research, has come where the RFUs globally who are trying to reduce the amount of concussions in the sport - which lead to more severe injuries later on in life, after rugby.
Now here is my view…
As a product of a school where Rugby was compulsory Years 7 to 11… where we (as a year group) were split into 4 groups of ability, this is a LUDICROUS proposal.
First of all, think about the game. Rugby IS A CONTACT SPORT. Its like removing the punch from a boxing match, the bouncer from cricket (Phil Hughes/Sean Abbott - Hughes died in that - no report calling for the bouncer to be make illegal). Will children still be ‘excited’ by the game of Rugby if at school - all they do it play touch rugby. Part of the draw of rugby, is the physicality (thats certainly one of the aspects that got me started - I can’t fight in school yet on a rugby field I can tackle people bigger than me to the floor). Remove the main ‘draw’ of the game, more children will move over to Football or Hockey.
Next, think about the sport in England. A lot of players, that play club rugby, started somewhere. Now some started at their clubs… perhaps their Dad took them, they went with a friend whatever, but I know A LOT of players first played rugby at school and then moved to clubs. An example of this is my school was essentially a feeder team into the local rugby team (Walsall RFC). If less numbers are interested, less people play rugby. Some people may not be able to get to their local club to play - this stops them playing rugby!
Now this report is focussing on school rugby. I get that. But I strongly think that a lot of schools who play rugby, that make it compulsory, need to look at how they are teaching rugby, teaching tackling etc. From experience, we spent a lot of time learning to tackle, the fact of getting low, going with the shoulder, wrap the legs, how to fall.. over and over again… and in 7 years of playing it at school, not one person became ‘paralysed’ or had severe ‘concussion’. I do remember one player having concussion in the 1st team when I was in Year 11 - our coach subbed him off (much to his anger) - but safety was paramount (and this was before the 10 minute concussion checks they do now).
In rugby, by getting tackled, you are in a vulnerable position (lying on the ground with 10+ people with studs running towards you). This is where your team would come and support, by rucking over you and the ball - perhaps a cheeky offload to keep possession moving. I’ve played rugby with people I didn’t like - still don’t like. But none of that mattered when we hit the rugby field - we needed to work together, else someone could’ve got hurt. You can’t learn that skill if you’re only playing touch rugby.
I can safely say I wouldn’t be the person I am today without Rugby. I made some amazing friends, learnt a hell of a lot in teamwork, commitment, hard work and so much more. Now some of you will argue, you can still learn those skills in a ‘safer’ environment without tackling… but would you?
If there’s anyone out there would like their say, perhaps they disagree with what I’ve said above, tweet/email - all the normal social outlets - i’m contactable on. This is something I feel very strongly about… as I feel those who have released this story have very much focussed on the negative and magnified it.
P.S Happy Birthday Gary Taylor :)