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World Rugby furthers concussion prevention commitment with new high-tackle sanction framework

World Rugby has issued a law application guideline and supporting educational materials to assist everyone in the game with the on-field sanction decision-making process for high tackle and shoulder charges.

Reflecting the international federation’s evidence-based approach to reducing the risk of concussion, the ‘decision-making framework for high tackles’ was developed in partnership with union and competition delegates attending the player welfare symposium in France last month and includes player, coach, match official and medic input.

It is a simple-step by step guide with the purpose of:

  • Improving the consistency in application of on-field sanctions by distinguishing between dangerous tackles that warrant a penalty, yellow card or red card
  • Supporting protection of the head of both players by consistently and frequently sanctioning the tackle behavior that is known to be the highest risk

With research demonstrating that 76 per cent of concussions occur in the tackle, with 72 per cent of those to the tackler, and that head injury risk is 4.2 times greater when tacklers are upright, the framework is aimed at changing player behavior in this priority area, via the promotion of safer technique and builds on the January 2017 edict on tougher sanctioning of high tackles

Available as a step-by-step PDF, the framework is also supported by an educational video and illustrates what match officials are looking for when determining a sanction.

The process focuses on the source of direct contact to the head, the degree of force and, for the first time, any mitigating or aggravating factors that may be applied by the match officials. It will be a useful tool for coaches, players, match officials, media and fans. It provides a fresh emphasis and does not retrospectively judge previous decisions.

View the high tackle decision-making framework here 

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “As a sport, we continue to put injury-prevention at the heart of all our decisions. The decision-making framework for high tackles reflects that commitment, providing a step-by-step guide for match officials with the express objective of reducing the risk of injury through tougher and more consistent sanctioning of high-risk tackle behavior.

“We are on an important and bold journey that will take the commitment and support of everyone in the game. I would especially like to thank the competitions and unions for their full collaboration in this important process.”

World Rugby Rugby Committee Chairman John Jeffrey added: “This is an important player welfare and educational tool for the global game. The framework will benefit everyone in the game, not just match officials, and will set the standard that is expected from match officials when considering a high tackle or dangerous shoulder charge.”

All World Rugby competitions and international matches will adopt the law application guide with immediate effect along with any competition that is yet to kick-off. Competitions currently in progress can either implement immediately or at the beginning of the next competition season/hosting.


World Rugby is committed to the global advancement of rugby and its character-building values to build a better, stronger game for all. The global rugby community comprises 9.1 million players and 338 million fans affiliated via 123 national member unions in six regions and driven by the commercial success of Rugby World Cup, World Rugby is investing GBP £482 million at all levels of the game between 2016 and 2019, eclipsing the previous four-year cycle by 38 per cent, to ensure strong and sustainable growth.

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