Sonny Bill Willams confused by World Rugby’s tackle ban

Publish Date
Sunday, 29 January 2023, 10:59AM

Former All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams fears rugby could change forever following the decision from World Rugby to ban tackling above the waist this year at community level as part of a global trial.

Williams, who retired from rugby in 2021, vented his frustration at the mandate on Twitter.

“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.

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.

“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?”

World Rugby CEO Alan Gilpin has stated that it is not a foregone conclusion that the legal tackle height will be lowered at the professional level, despite recent speculation.

This comes after the Rugby Football Union (RFU), the governing body of English rugby, faced calls for senior officials to resign over their handling of a decision to lower the legal tackle height at the community level.

In an interview with the London Telegraph, Gilpin had suggested that World Rugby was planning to lower the tackle height at the elite level.

However, in a media briefing with Australian reporters on day two of the Sydney Sevens yesterday, Gilpin clarified World Rugby’s position and stated that it is not inevitable that a lowering of the legal tackle height at the professional level would come into effect.

“I don’t think it’s inevitable,” Gilpin told WA Today. “Players are already understanding they need to lower the tackle height at the elite level of the game in order to reduce head contact. Whether we need to make rule change to drive that, I think is an area we’re working pretty hard to understand.

“At the elite level of the game, we’ve got an environment that is very different to the community game. Lowering the tackle height is a priority in the community part of the game to make the game safer for players playing at all ages and grades. At the elite level, we’re using a different approach to try and drive behavioural change.

“I know there are different parts of the world [that have] concerns about what those red cards and yellow cards [for high contact] mean for the shape of the game and for the entertainment spectacle. A lot of dialogue and a lot of hard work [is required] to understand how we find and trial different variants of that.”

If World Rugby were to make a change at the top level, it is unlikely it would be implemented before the 2027 World Cup in Australia.

Supporters are concerned that lowering the tackle height further could create more grey areas and poorer spectacles. It is something Gilpin acknowledged could happen if significant changes were made.

“That’s the challenge,” Gilpin told WA today. “[We have to] really try and understand what those subtle differences mean. It’s not safety or spectacle, it’s how do we make the game as safe as possible and a better spectacle? In an incredibly competitive market here [in Australia] with obviously other codes. [It is] making sure fans are excited by what they see.”

This article was first published on and is republished here with permission

Take your Radio, Podcasts and Music with you