Rugby is a contact sport, and with any contact sports, there is a risk of injury. In fact, there is a risk of injury in any sport, and even people who do not participate in sport at all get hurt, so why the focus on tackling?
There has been much debate in recent years about the risk of concussion, fracture and dislocation, with short and long-term implications, to the point where some – including doctors and academics – are calling for a ban on tackling in rugby at school level.
There are just as many on the other side of the argument, however, starting with the case that when taught correctly and early on, players learn how to minimise the risk of injury from the outset.
Using rugby drills from companies like Sport Plan https://www.sportplan.net/drills/rugby is a good base to teach correct technique from the beginning. Get it right, and the smallest player on the pitch can safely stop the biggest one in his tracks.
The approach in New Zealand schools seems to be more sensible than an outright ban on tackling. There, players are segregated by their weight rather than by their year group, so players are only ever “hit” in practice by players of the same weight, and there are no gargantuan mismatches. That’s not to say you won’t still get hurt if you’re not ready for the tackle, but it gives players a better chance to learn.
They also placed a huge emphasis on ball skills. Anyone who has ever watched the national side, The All Blacks, will be able to testify that the theory and approach seems to be working!
A game for everyone
As is stands, rugby is a game for anyone, whatever size or shape. There are lots of different skills required on the field, and tackling is a big part of that. Without it, speed could become the main focus, and that risks alienating the bigger, slower players.
For more information on both sides of the debate, see the BBC website.
Of course, there will always be risk, and that will always lead to debate. A similar discussion does the rounds every now and then about whether body armour should be allowed, so the question of tackling in rugby looks certain to rumble on, too.