Retired All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams fears the code could change forever following the decision from World Rugby to ban tackling above the waist this year as part of a global trial.
Taking to Twitter, the 37-year-old, who also excelled in the NRL and boxing ring in a decorated sporting career, vented his frustration at the mandate.
‘For me, not only does it completely change the way the game is played, but also forcing a low tackle height in ALL in-game situations will only increase the (chance of) head knocks,’ he posted.
‘Has anyone asked the elite players for their opinion?
Former All Black Sonny Bill Williams fears the code could change forever following the decision from World Rugby to ban tackling above the waist this year as part of a global trial
The former Bulldogs and Roosters star also admitted the worst head injury he received in a long and decorated career came from a legs tackle.
‘The worst concussion i had in a 20 year career was from a low “textbook” tackle – the reason everyone (like me) is so confused by these rumoured law changes is because the logic isn’t being shared with us,’ he posted.
‘Can anyone share the science behind these decisions?’
Williams – who won two rugby World Cups with New Zealand in 2011 and 2015 – garnered plenty of support online.
One fan felt it will ‘completely change the game’, with another supporter stating ‘I don’t think any opinions of people playing at any level have been sought out.’
The global trial will be introduced from July 1 for amateur players of all ages, the Rugby Football Union [RFU] recently announced.
While Rugby Australia has previously said it has no intentions of applying the same legalities to the game on local shores, the global governing body appears set to force Aussie players to adhere to the new restrictions.
The 37-year-old vented his frustration at the mandate to his 936,000 plus Twitter followers
Williams fears there will be an increase in head knocks due to a low tackling height
World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin told the Sydney Morning Herald that World Rugby would follow the lead of the RFU with a trial of no tackling above the waist at amateur level in a global trial from January 1, 2024.
Under the proposal, there would be a certain amount of leeway applied with warnings to be issued, however shots around the torso would attract yellow cards and high shots would result in an automatic red card.
‘Yes, we are looking to make sure that we are implementing a lower tackle height across all parts of the game,’ Gilpin said.
‘How that’s actually implemented is slightly different in the community game to the elite game.’
Textbook tackles like this will become questionable at amateur and junior level and could result in a yellow card
Arms around the waist tackles will become common, like this one attempted tackle by former Wallaby Nathan Sharpe on cross-code star Sonny Bill Williams
While the decision will apply to all levels of amateur rugby, professional grades including international Tests will not be impacted.
Gilpin said the lack of medical professionals on hand at amateur level necessitated the move.
‘You are in a slightly different environment, for a number of reasons, in the elite part of the game, particularly at an international level, because the level of — for example — medical provision and diagnostic ability – is very different,’ he said.
‘We obviously have television match officials, head injury assessment, the ability for immediate pitch-side care in all elite-level rugby that you don’t have in the community game.
‘We have got to recognise that they are not the same sport.’
Former Wallabies winger Drew Mitchell has previously voiced his objections to the rule change making its way to Australia.
Drew Mitchell has questioned how the new tackling rules will work and labelled the RFU’s move ‘dramatic’ (pictured, Jed Holloway of the Wallabies reacts after collecting Dalton Papali’i of the All Blacks last year)
Ireland’s Johnny Sexton does not agree with the new limitations, saying more players will be hurt being hit in the head by errant knees
‘I think it’s a little bit dramatic. A few years ago the nipple height was introduced and quickly thrown out. I get what they are trying to do … but I think this one is wide of the mark and going too far,’ he said.
‘There’s got to be flow-on effects, too. If you can’t tackle anyone above the waist and every single attacking player has hands free during every single run … whilst trying to eliminate one thing, we open up something else.’
Ireland skipper Johnny Sexton has also argued against the rule change, saying increased leg tackles would actually raise the occurrence of concussions.
‘You can get a knee in the head. You can get a hip in the head. Most concussions they come from those,’ he said.
‘There was a study done a few years ago and there were a lot of red cards given for high tackles.
‘100 per cent we need to get them out the game, but none of them resulted in concussions…. a lot of them came from knees to the head and hips to the head.
‘I am not sure who puts these rules in place but I don’t agree with them, especially for a taller man like myself who likes to tackle hard.’