Former Test referee Nigel Owens says the RFU’s decision to ban tackles above the waist from 1 July will make it very “difficult” for match officials.
The RFU announced last week it had approved a reduction, from 1 July, in tackle height across community rugby in England – to waist height or below – in an effort to reduce head impacts and concussion risk.
The law will apply to all levels of English rugby other than the Premiership and second-tier Championship, affecting all amateur levels of the game.
Former and current professional players have reacted angrily to the change, while a petition calling for the RFU to reverse its decision amassed more than 45,000 signatures in the two days since its launch last Thursday.
Speaking in an interview with BBC Radio, Owens questioned the practicality of the law change and said that it will make referees’ jobs harder unless the RFU provides more information about it.
“Most importantly there needs to be total clarity for the referees because it is a contact sport,” Owens told the BBC Radio 5 Live. “It is going to be very difficult, I would think, unless there is total clarity around this to have a shift in the behaviour to referee it.
“Anything that comes in to enhance player safety, because that is paramount in the game, it should be welcome. The only issue is there are a lot of questions around this by the players who play the game, ex-players and officials and everybody involved in the game. So there’s a lot of questions around this at the moment which we are finding it difficult to get answers to.
“I don’t think people are signing a petition not wanting to make the game safe,” Owens added. “They are signing it because they want to know how this is going to better the game, how is it going to make the game safer.
“If the ball carrier is going to ground near the try-line, how are you going to be able to get below his waist to tackle him?
“How do you now set up a maul? Because the ball-carrier is on his feet, the defenders wrap around him and you can’t join a maul below the waist.
“There are a lot of question marks and that is what needs to be addressed.”
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