New Zealand receive ‘resounding’ response to sternum tackle trial

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has said it will continue the reduced tackle height law trial in its community game until the end of 2025.

NZR community rugby general manager Steve Lancaster told the New Zealand Herald that the trial law, which forces a first tackler to tackle below the sternum, has both improved perceived safety and made for a better, faster game.

Faster games

“Our participants have told us that they want the tackle area of the game to be safer, and that’s been our focus. The resounding feedback we’ve heard from our players, coaches and referees is that they understood the reason for change, and that’s been critical to its success,” said Lancaster.

“We appreciate it’s an adjustment to make, and our community participants can be proud of the way they have

This season, I adjusted and engaged in the game. Although there is certainly space for improvement, most first tackles are occurring below the sternum, and games are progressing more quickly.

The vast majority of survey participants believed that the new tackle tactics were safer for the tackler and the ball-carrier, and in New Zealand’s top men’s club rugby, offloads are said to have increased by as much as 65%.

Although it is anticipated that increased safety measures would encourage more young male players to return to the game, a notable increase in the number of female players gives cause for optimism.

Other law trials

Stuff.co.nz reported that although junior club boys’ numbers had declined slightly (two per cent) over the 2023

season, the playing stocks of women and girls had increased by 20%, resulting in a 7% increase in the total number of rugby players in New Zealand starting in 2022.

The total number of teenage participants climbed by 11% to 34,173 players, while community coach registrations went up 4% and, most gratifyingly, referee registrations went up 8% to 1,564.

We’ve actually only just had our first regular rugby season in four years, and Covid has really altered community sport throughout the nation,” Lancaster added.

The numbers of junior boys in certain regions of the nation are still lower than they were before the Covid pandemic. We’ve taken some time to comprehend the problems, and we’ll be concentrating on them going ahead, along with teen involvement.

There will be two more law trials in the community game. Defending scrum-halves will not be permitted to get past the tunnel or more than 1 meter from the scrum, and scrums may only reach 1.5 meters before the shove must stop (except 5 meter scrums). Both a decrease in handling mistakes and an enhancement in overall playability from the set piece have been attributed to the latter legal trial.

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