Rugby union tackling - how low can you go?

Having seen the tackles in question (per the BBC link below), I have a lot of empathy for Rob Baxter’s view. Rugby used to be a game which would accommodate most body-types, with the ‘chunkies’ being forwards and the nimbler, fleet of foot, being in the backs (from 9 onwards). And, more importantly, the backs knew generally not to to mix in with the forwards, as that was a path to pain - of course it was the forwards’ job to protect their scrum-half and fly-half as the key playmakers, akin to American football.

We all know that things have moved on with, by and large, the ‘chunkies’ having got way chunkier (inc taller), as have many of the backs - not always the case, especially at #'s 9 & 10, where speed & agility and the ability to kick is needed.

I respect the need to police the game for potential injury (short and/or long term) but how is a 6’5’’ ‘chunky’ supposed to tackle someone far smaller, when the latter is the one engaging that contact, often within a fraction of a second - and in one of the instances here, very close to the try-line.

I think the ref is Ewers’ case got the decision right i.e. yellow.

The game seems to be moving to the point of waist and below tackling which, in itself, isn’t without dangers of contacting the solid pelvic area and/or getting a face full of studs - have got the T-shirt on these. Ye olde bear hug tackle appears to have had its day, bar the forwards when being in close contact.

Shame - kinda like F1 driven only on oval and straightaways to me.

Isn’t the bigger and causal issue that the game needs to re-prioritise aerobic capability and slim-down the ‘chunkies’ across the pitch (which now includes the backs) via increasing game-play times and reducing subs?

Dave Ewers and Sam Skinner: Exeter Chiefs forwards banned for play-offs - BBC Sport

Many moons ago, when I played rugby, the whole point of a tackle was to immobilise the opponent, hence arms round thighs or knees bringing him to the ground.

In today’s game, with the advent of the “chunkies”, it seems to be more about simply knocking him over through sheer strength, or at the very least halting his progress with the bear hug.

Call me old fashioned, but the various rule changes down the years seem to have resulted in a game where the ball and the players spend much of the time on the deck, rather than running with the ball, and the art of the talented runner and cultured tackler seem gone forever.

This is why I now largely watch Rugby League … big lad gets ball, and sets off at pace towards opponent’s line.

…where the upright tackler(s) brace and often meet them shoulder first (trying to seal the off-load), with the supplemental tackler(s) going low, to prevent forward-progress. To my eyes though (correct me if I’m wrong), rarely does the charging player duck in to contact, as is often the case in RU i.e. the RL guys know shoulder to shoulder is OK but not a ducking head to shoulder (as is often the case in RU i.e. contributory negligence of a sort).

I agree with your view on the RU law changes over the years. The fluency of the game has been lost and IMV it’s a sad indictment on the game when (IIRC) SA sub’ed all/most of their front 5 in the RWC final after ~55 mins…and they’re not alone in managing games this way. How can 8 subs be allowed for a game where match-time is considerably less than 80 mins.

Yes, you’re right, and my mention of League really only takes into account the receiving of the ball and the setting off at pace, and doesn’t go as far as the tackling bit. So it’s really just the concept of big lads running at pace with the ball under their arms which strikes me as the way the game used to be played.

It’s just that my recollection from my playing days is of a game of running and swerving / sidestepping incoming tackles, or anticipating an oncoming runner’s movement before applying the tackle.

Today, much of the time, the ball is buried under a heap of bodies and the whole thing grinds to a halt until the ball sees daylight again.

The whole art of the thing has been lost in favour of brute strength … I was never the chunkiest of players, but I couldn’t half run and dodge tackles.


A related article in today’s Times 14/7/21, back page, ‘Radical plan to save rugby from oblivion’. Hopefully findable.

Several proposed law changes are outlined. The most significant might be the ‘50:22 kick’. Probably worth googling.

The idea is create space on the field, reducing the number and intensity of head on collisions.

I’ve seen the outlines of these changes - but my jury is out until I see them in action and, TBH, I don’t see how a 50:22 kick is going to change things that much, as there’s too much set-play delay in the game now, which has reduced the need for aerobic stamina.

I watched the Lions’ game v (supposed) SA ‘A’ yesterday and, at times, it was the usual power-rugby fest, with so much time lost at scrums and setting line-outs et al – oh, and, just for a change, Farrell kicking ‘bombs’ from #10, inviting issues with competition in the air. If it’s not tackling as a danger, then it’s the latter.

Having watched the great Baba’s game v NZ (1973 IIRC) again recently, what stands out is how little time the ball was inactive. Above said, both teams under the current laws would have seen some yellow cards for flailing arm tackles.

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