By Jake Beleski
World Rugby has taken its campaign against head injuries a step too far.
From January 3, the rules around what is deemed dangerous in terms of contact with the head will tighten, but to an almost ridiculous degree.
The new laws state that a tackle or attempted tackle will be deemed reckless if the tackler knew, or should have known, there was a risk of making contact with the head, and did so anyway.
Nothing too controversial there.
It will apply even if the tackle started below the shoulders, and includes neck rolls.
Another good addition.
Neck rolls are one of the most dangerous techniques used to clean players out from a ruck, and need to be eliminated from the game.
Minimum sanction yellow card, maximum red card.
It then states that a tackle or attempted tackle will be deemed accidental if a tackler makes accidental contact with the head — like Sam Cane’s sickening head-clash with Irish second five-eighth Robbie Henshaw last month — even if the tackle started below the shoulders.
It seems that is largely open to a referee’s interpretation, but no problem there — the onus should always be on the defensive player to execute the tackle as safely as possible.
It then says it includes instances where the ball-carrier slips into the tackle, and the minimum sanction is a penalty.
You have to be kidding?
There has already been an outcry of players complaining that the rule will lead to an increase in “diving”, where players deliberately slip in the hope of gaining a penalty, and I completely agree.
Imagine this — the Aussies are down by two against the All Blacks, with time up on the clock.
They have the ball on halfway and their famous clown, coach Michael Cheika, decides to tell one of his players to “slip” as he goes into a tackle.
One of the All Blacks’ big forwards goes in to make a waist-high tackle, and suddenly finds himself with an arm across the attacking player’s face.
The Wallabies win, and Cheika claims Eden Park should be resurfaced to stop players slipping.
No thank you.
The issue of players slipping or falling into tackles is even more prevalent in rugby league, but that is because the first defender usually hits low, and the second player comes in over the top.
That is different, because if a player can see that a teammate is making the tackle, they should adjust accordingly.
But to penalise someone for an opposing player slipping into their waiting arms?
Let the diving commence.