England captain Owen Farrell has been altering his tackle technique to conform to World Rugby’s updated guidelines regarding no-arms tackles.
After being at the centre of two controversial incidents during the November Tests last year, the England flyhalf has been making changes to his approach over fears of being sanctioned with yellow and red cards at the World Cup.
Following victories over the Springboks and Wallabies, Farrell’s no-arms tackles on Andre Esterhuizen and Australian lock Izack Rodda went unpunished.
The Springboks were denied the chance of kicking a late penalty by referee Angus Gardner and consequently suffered a 12-11 loss at Twickenham, while the Wallabies were also denied a penalty try after a contentious decision by Jaco Peyper.
Consequently, World Rugby implemented new rules around the tackle area, with the reformed regulations stating that Farrell should have been sanctioned for his indiscretions.
With Eddie Jones already having declared that the World Cup could be ‘destroyed’ by inconsistent refereeing decisions around the tackle area, defence coach John Mitchell has said that Farrell has been working closely with strength and conditioning coach John Carrington.
‘Owen’s not overly focused in that area but he has made some adjustments,’ commented Mitchell.
‘John Carrington is very good at the tackle technique, so they’ve just made some adjustments based on that.
‘If your hand is in front of your shoulder then you’ve got a better chance of making a proper wrap tackle. If your shoulder is ahead of your hands then the law probably doesn’t look after you very well.’
After the new tackle regulations were introduced, four red and 13 yellow cards were issued at the World Rugby U20 Championship in June.
Jones has issued a stern warning to his squad regarding tackle-height discipline, with Mitchell admitting that the team has been practising drills with numerical disadvantages at training in an attempt to prepare for worst-case scenarios.
‘We constantly underload and overload [player numbers] in training, to be able to adapt to these situations,’ said Mitchell.
‘To be able to cope with the worst-case scenario is really important.’
‘It’s a very complex area as it is, so it is our responsibility as coaches to make it absolutely clear to the players what they can and can’t do.
‘Calmness and clear heads create the ability to make good decisions and collectively you end up working together, and it comes through the way we train.’
England can expect a physical encounter when they open their World Cup campaign against Pool C opponents Tonga on Sunday at 12:15pm in Sapporo.
Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga/EPA