Rugby-World Rugby to lower tackle height at elite level: CEO

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - Rugby World Cup - World Rugby and the Japan Rugby 2019 Organising Committee hold news conference ahead of knockout matches - Tokyo, Japan - October 15, 2019. World Rugby Tournament Director Alan Gilpin speaks. REUTERS/Matthew Childs/File Photo

(Reuters) - World Rugby intends to lower the legal tackling height at elite level worldwide in the coming years to reduce the risk of head injuries in the sport, the governing body's chief executive Alan Gilpin said.

Gilpin's comments follow the decision by England's Rugby Football Union to ban tackling above the waist in the community game. Players and coaches have criticised both the decision and what they said was a lack of consultation.

Gilpin on Thursday endorsed the RFU's move and said the global governing body would also make changes, though they may not come into effect before the 2027 World Cup in Australia.

"Yes, we're looking to make sure that we are implementing a lower tackle height across all parts of the game," Gilpin told the Telegraph. "The RFU is in the process of implementing some changes around tackle height that we support.

"There's a lot of work to do to educate people. But we've got to, as a sport, try to find that really difficult but hugely-important balance between safety but making the game entertaining to watch.

"We need to get players tackling lower at every part of the game ... How that's actually implemented is slightly different in the community game to the elite game."

Groups of amateur and ex-professional players have brought claims against rugby bodies alleging they negligently failed to protect them from concussion and non-concussion injuries that caused various neurological disorders.

Gilpin indicated the tackle height in the professional game, currently set at shoulder level, would not be lowered as far as the waist but said research showed change was needed.

"The key message is let's get the tackle height lower at every level of the game because that will reduce – absolutely reduce – the number of head injuries that we see in rugby," he added.

(Reporting by Hritika Sharma in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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