Underscoring the commitment of unions in the priority area of injury-prevention, the ground-breaking meeting was the first where elite coaches have collaborated in such a way.
The specialist group reviewed videos that demonstrated the most common head injury scenarios and considered technique characteristics of a tackle that leads to an injury and the characteristics that result in the head being protected. Key insights included:
- Poor tackle technique factors include: late footwork; height of tackle for taller players; being too square into the tackle; indecision of tackler and prioritising line speed over technique
- Good tackle technique factors include: head in line; studs in ground on lead leg; gritted teeth; approaching the tackle slightly off-set
The group also considered potential drills and education components that can reinforce good technique with the outcomes going to the World Rugby Law Review Group to consider.
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: "Injury prevention is a priority for the sport and I would like to thank unions for their full, open and collaborative contribution. The insights into tackle technique, and more importantly factors that have potential to reduce injury, were exceptional.
"We will use these insights to consider how best to develop an educational and technique programme that builds on the solid foundations from the tackle height adjustment this year to further the protection of players at all levels of the game as part of a wider injury-prevention strategy."
The workshop was the second phase in a strategic injury-prevention programme, triggered by research undertaken by World Rugby between 2013-15 examining more than 600 Head Injury Assessment cases. The key findings of this research were:
- 464 (76%) of 611 HIAs occurred in the tackle
- 335 (72%) of tackle HIAs were sustained by the tackler
- 464 tackle videos analysed – assessing 11 tackle variables
- 3160 non-injury tackles from 20 games used as control (comparison) cases
The research outcomes were considered by a multi-disciplinary head injury prevention group included playing, coaching, refereeing, science and administrative representatives such as Eddie Jones, Paul O’Connell, Nigel Owens and Sophie Spence.
The work of this group led to the implementation of the first phase of programmes in 2017 that are already benefiting the game:
- Reinforcement of zero-tolerance culture towards head contact in on-field and off-field disciplinary environments
- Lowering of the acceptable height of the tackle, launched in January 2017
The group identified further areas of focus, including investigating tackle technique and protection at impact, leading to the tackle technique workshop being convened.
Meeting attendees: Bill Beaumont (World Rugby Chairman); Jacques Nienaber (South Africa); Shaun Edwards (Wales); Nathan Grey (Australia); Omar Hassanein (IRPA); Scott Johnson (Scotland); Andy Farrell (Ireland) Paul Gustard (England) Pablo Bouza (Argentina); Gerard Bastide (France); Mark Harrington; Martin Raftery; Ross Tucker (World Rugby).