Rugby league set for a potential ‘big influx’ of rugby union players

RUGBY LEAGUE could be set for a potential ‘big influx’ of rugby union players in light of the new laws over the tackling height in the 15-man code.

The Rugby Football Union created havoc earlier in the week when they announced a reduction in tackling height, meaning that tackles will now have to be made at the waistline and below with the aim of a defender to put their heads in the safest possible place.

The new rule will come into place from 1 July 2023, with the community game covering clubs, schools, colleges and universities.

In a statement the Rugby Football Union (RFU) said: “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. 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.”

However, in trying to find new ways of protecting players, there are fears that union could face an exodus of players to league as explained by MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire, Stephen Crabb.

Crabb addressed the House of Commons Speaker, the new RFL president Sir Lindsay Hoyle, yesterday, saying: “I suspect your form of the game, Mr Speaker, is going to see a big influx of new players as the English Rugby Football Union seeks to rewrite the rules of the union game.

“So, could I ask the minister if he agrees with me that, given that 75,000 players, coaches, supporters of the union game have already signed a petition rejecting the new rules, does he agree with me that the RFU should think again, should work more collaboratively with the grassroots across all home nations and ensure all steps taken to improve player safety are consistent, workable and don’t lead to a player exodus?”

It remains to be seen whether or not rugby league will follow the ruling brought in by union, but one thing is for sure, it’s not the end of the debate.