Ban Tackling in School Rugby for Safety...Really?

September 26, 2017

Imagine if there was no overtaking allowed at age-grade go-karting, yet when a hot prospect was deemed ready for the mighty heights of F1, not only would they have to manoeuvre a car around an extremely difficult track at high-speeds, but also attempt to overtake and defend attacks from other drivers, having had zero experience previously…it wouldn’t work and also wouldn’t be deemed safe.

Or…

Imagine boxers going through their school careers only learning how to spar with a punching bag, and then when deemed old enough, entering the ring against a much more experienced athlete; it would be carnage.

Obviously, neither of these scenarios would ever occur, so why are we entertaining the idea of allowing tackling to be banned within school rugby? It’s a fundamental aspect of the sport, which surely must be ingrained within kids from an early age when picking up motor skills is at its easiest…

As many of you probably know, Professor Alyson Pollock has called for tackling to be banned in school rugby, in an attempt to reduce the risk of injury to kids within school sport. She also called for this to be implemented last year, however, the Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) rejected it as ‘the benefits of learning, training and playing rugby outweighed the risk of injury.’

This is a point that was re-enforced by Maggie Alphonsi on Good Morning Britain, this morning.

Here are another few points of interest that I believe are extremely valid…

Other sports have found a way…

Rugby has been deemed a dangerous sport but what about the likes of horse riding, or gymnastics, or motor racing or boxing? All these are considered safe due to the intense and clinical training and coaching that is offered to youngsters…A gymnast can only carry out a double pike and twist, with the aid of practice and the watchful eye of a coach, just like a young rugby enthusiast will learn how to tackle in a stage by stage process, so that they can navigate the contact area safely.

Rugby could become more dangerous at Senior Level

If children do not learn how to tackle properly from an early age, the amount of injuries within senior grassroots rugby will surely rise; you’ll have guys with next to no contact experience attempting to bring down veterans and that is a recipe for disaster.

Imagine a spritely young lad attempting to bring down a 6’4 flanker, and putting his head on the wrong side…

We have a very real issue of child inactivity and obesity…

If tackling is causing issues within rugby, I don’t see why we don’t look for a solution instead of the problem. What I mean by this is why remove one of the core aspects of rugby to prevent a problem, when we could invest time and money in ensuring there are more fully qualified rugby coaches available to teach kids.

Remove tackling and you’ll lose thousands of children from the sport; they want to emulate their heroes on the pitch, not simply run around playing tag-rugby. And if these children do leave the sport, they may not take up another…and there are extreme problems within our country when it comes to child inactivity.

The benefits aren’t just on the field

As E4R’s Tom May has rightly said, wrapping kids up in cotton wool does nothing for them whether it is on or off the field. There is so much to gain from being involved in a sport like rugby and what a great shame if we begin to tinker the model when there are other ways to enforce positive change.

Tom believes in reducing the chances of injury through further education on tackling, plus the surrounding the benefits of the game and why it’s imperative to stay active. We don’t want to drive kids away from our sport when they can learn so much through the sport’s key values…

This isn’t just a professional sport…

Professor Pollock says her point is about the kids' safety, not the corporate rugby unions, however what about the thousands of kids that’ll go on to play rugby for local clubs, creating a social circle and community? If we enforce changes that drive kids away from the sport, it could lead to the erosion of the grassroots game; and thus the whole game will suffer in the UK.

Tackling should not be banned within school rugby; it's a contact sport and the children should be nurtured and energy should be invested into improving the capabilities of coaches instead of dismantling a wonderful school sport. 


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