Rugby-RFU apologises for 'anger and concern' caused by tackle height guidelines

FILE PHOTO: Rugby Union - England v Italy - Women's Six Nations Championship - Twickenham Stoop - 15/2/15 General View of England logo on corner flag Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Jed Leicester

(Reuters) -England's Rugby Football Union (RFU) on Friday apologised after its new low tackle guidelines were met with widespread criticism, adding it would conduct workshops with volunteers, players, coaches and match officials to explain the proposals.

The RFU announced last week that tackling above the waist will be banned in community rugby matches from next season to reduce head impact exposure and concussion risk.

The move, made amid increasing concerns about how head impact exposure and concussions affect players' health, would affect English clubs in divisions below the Premiership, Championship and Premier 15s.

"The RFU Board, Council and executive staff apologise for the anger and concern that has been created among the rugby community...," the RFU said in a statement.

"In our desire to act quickly to reduce head impacts and concussions in the community game, which represents 99% of the rugby playing population in England, we have upset many of you who are the champions, volunteers, and ambassadors of our game.

"We fully acknowledge we got the engagement wrong, and we are truly sorry."

Earlier this week, Ireland head coach Andy Farrell said the proposals could leave players "sitting ducks," while Gloucester head coach George Skivington said: "I don't think it's smart."

Ireland flyhalf Jonny Sexton, speaking at the Six Nations launch on Monday, said the rule change may actually increase the number of concussions in the sport.

The RFU said the wording they had used to explain the proposals mirrored that of a similar move in France and acknowledged that it had "caused misunderstanding and confusion."

"We would now like the game to help us define how we describe a lower tackle height to reflect what the research is telling us in a way that is understood by all," the governing body said.

"Consequently, the risk of head injuries should be reduced if tackling below that optimum height.

"We will now begin a series of forums and workshops with players, coaches, match officials and volunteers, to explain and develop the details of the domestic law variation."

The RFU's apology also included details of "scientific evidence" which states that the risk of head injury and concussion can be reduced by lowering tackle height.

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.

World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin said the governing body 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.

(Reporting by Aadi Nair in Nashik, IndiaEditing by Christian Radnedge)

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