Wadebridge Camels coach warns law change ‘could destroy the game’

Coaches at two of Cornwall biggest and most progressive rugby union clubs have been reacting to proposed tackling law changes that are set to be enforced in the amateur game next season, writes Gareth Davies.

Wadebridge Camels chief Mike Rawlings and Kyle Marriott, his opposite number at Counties 2 South West title contenders St Austell, both gave varying opinions when quizzed on the subject after the respective sides met at Tregorrick Park last Saturday. 

The Rugby Football Union dropped a bombshell on the 15-man code last week when the governing body in England announced that its Council had backed plans to alter tackling height.

Under the new rules, which are set to come into force on July 1 but wouldn’t affect the Cornish Pirates should they compete in the RFU Championship next term, tackling above the waist would be illegal.

This radical proposal, designed to reduce the amount of head concussions in the game, has sparked fury in grassroots rugby with Rawlings blasting the RFU’s new ruling by saying ‘it could destroy the game’.

He said: “I personally think it is going to be very dangerous and I know the RFU are looking to try and protect the ball carrier, but thinking from my career most of the times I suffered a head knock it was in the execution of a low tackle.

“I think if the rules do come in, knee injuries are going to go up and concussions are going to go up. I don’t see the benefit of it and by the reaction in terms of what we’ve seen in the press and the starting of petitions, we are going to see a huge drop off in rugby participation next year, if the rules are changed.

“The old guys in our team say they don’t want to play if the rules are changed and speaking to the referee before our match with St Austell, he said that he didn’t want to referee games if things change.

“There will be significant pressures on referees and unfortunately it is very bad news for rugby union but hopefully there will be a discussion about adapting what is being proposed.

“I think it is crazy to go from shoulder to waist is a pretty drastic move. I do understand about safety but we play rugby for the contact and the physicality. We all go into playing rugby knowing what the risks are and if you don’t know, you are naive or lacking common sense.

“Things like neck rolls or any tackle above the neck, I understand that these rules make rugby safer, but if you try and monitor every aspect of the game, it’s not doable or realistic.

“As you can already tell, it could destroy the game.”

Marriott, on the other hand, refused to be drawn on which side of the fence he sat on when it came to the new tackling height. However, the Bill Beaumont Cup winner for Cornwall did say that the RFU’s management of the announcement could have been handled differently. 

“I have seen a lot written about the proposed law changes but I have tried not to think about it too much,” he said. “There are a lot of people saying that this will spell the end for senior players like myself but at the end of the day, we are in a transition within rugby union at the moment.

“We know there will be changes and potentially it hasn’t been managed in the right way but for me, down here as head coach of St Austell, it is not really my place to say too much about it.

“I leave the big decisions to other people because I have enough to worry about.”