Ben Youngs says rugby union has ‘risks’ and ‘rewards’ following tackle height changes

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Ben Youngs
Ben Youngs (right) says he believes a tackle from the chest down is “probably safe enough”

England’s most-capped male player Ben Youngs insists the rewards of rugby union outweigh the risks as the debate over the tackle law rages on.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) announced last week players will only be able to tackle from the waist down.

The rules affect clubs in divisions below the Premiership, Championship and Premier 15s from July.

“Rugby does have its risks, but it also has its huge rewards,” Youngs told BBC Sport.

The changes led to a fierce backlash from the community game, who weren’t consulted over the move.

More than 250 clubs have supported the call for an RFU Special General Meeting.

Leicester scrum half Youngs, who has a record 121 caps, is also involved at Market Harborough RFC where his son plays mini rugby.

Youngs says “clarity” over the new law is needed – something the RFU have pledged to provide – and that a lowering of the legal tackle to “chest height” would both help with safety and be more enforceable at all levels of the game.

“A bit of clarity and help will go a long way I’m sure,” he added.

“I know all the local coaches, everyone at grassroots level, the referees, everyone who gives up their time for the community game which I go and see on a Sunday, I think clarity for them as well [is needed].

“From the chest down is probably safe enough; that’s what I believe.”

Youngs, 33, adds that many sports carry inherent risks and would like rugby union to retain its core principles, while also taking steps to improve safety.

“You can’t tell me it’s safe when you are playing hockey against a short corner; people take shots, it gets deflected, the ball can hit you in the head,” he said.

“But everyone would say hockey is safer than rugby – but that aspect of it isn’t safe. In cricket, fielding in certain positions, that isn’t safe.

“But as parents you take them [to play sport] because you know [the sports] are enjoyable.

“I think for rugby union the camaraderie the game gives you, the values, the respect, working together as a team, leadership, being part of something; that all outweighs [the risks].

“We want safety, but we also want rugby – we don’t want that to go.”

Meanwhile, a number of grassroots clubs are hoping to force through a vote of no confidence in the RFU board at an SGM.

A group called the Community Clubs’ Union [CCU] has been set up, with more than 250 clubs declaring their intention to call an SGM.

The CCU says a number of RFU Constituent Bodies are now looking to rescind their backing of the law change.

“Things have moved significantly,” said the CCU.

On Wednesday evening the RFU wrote to their member clubs saying there will be further discussion in the coming days.

“We recognise the change is challenging and the community game has understandably provided significant feedback on the change,” read the RFU correspondence.

“We consider the decision to reduce the tackle height to be the start of the process, to allow for a period of engagement in the coming weeks with groups of coaches, players and referees, drawn from across the country and from all levels of the game, including the men’s, women’s and age grade game, over the detail, intent and implications of the law change, before finalising it.”

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