Former All Black Nick Evans: I fear for the future of rugby

Former All Black Nick Evans admits he fears for the future of rugby under the controversial new tackling laws. Photo / Getty Images.
Former All Black Nick Evans admits he fears for the future of rugby under the controversial new tackling laws. Photo / Getty Images.

Former All Black Nick Evans admits he fears for the future of rugby under the controversial new tackling laws.

Evans, who quit New Zealand after the 2007 Rugby World Cup and has been a stellar performer for top English club Harlequins since, said he and other players are struggling to come to grips with the World Rugby-enforced changes.

"It is going down a very dangerous route," Evans told Newstalk ZB sports host Tony Veitch from England where the new rules came into effect on January 3.

"Players are confused and they don't like it. We understand it's for player welfare but I don't want it to ruin our game."

Evans, who played 16 tests for New Zealand at fullback or first five from 2004, said high profile incidents from last weekend's round of European rugby illustrated the dilemma.

"A lot of players are holding their hands up and saying 'I don't understand what's going on'," he said.

"You've got referees saying 'we are just applying the rules and we've been told we have to do this'.

"From a player's point of view, it's just not clear.

"I'm not blaming the referees. I can see the difficult position they've been put in. They've been given the directives by World Rugby and they're sticking to them."

But Evans was concerned that World Rugby may have to backtrack on the move to lower the tackle area results in more concussions than previously.

He said that was a possibility as many bigger players might not be able to adjust to the requirement to tackle lower.

"Our coaches have told us we've got to go lower but what we are finding in these opening few weeks is that it's showing the tackling technique of a lot of players just isn't good enough," he said.

"The bigger players are used to going high where they can scrag (attackers). But now all of sudden they're being told they have to chop, and go low around the waist and legs."

Evans said players with poor low tackling techniques were being concussed after placing their heads in the wrong place.

"We are getting more head knocks and concussions and I've got a feeling you are going to see more and more of that," he said. "There's going to have to be more professional coaching on how to tackle properly.

"That might sound stupid but the risk is too high.

"You lose a guy in the first five minutes to a red card and it changes the game massively.
"It's not just the big high shots, the swinging arms and things like that. It's the old collar grab...you can't do that anymore.

"It's also the tackle where you are lunging or reaching and you slide up around the head.
"There might not be much contact but if the referee had deemed it high and if he also thinks it's reckless, the red card comes in."

Evans believes a major controversy in a key game is inevitable.

"At the moment it's OK but if something happens in a big game like a Six Nations decider where somebody slides up off a shoulder in the first five minutes and it's deemed a red card, I'm 100 per cent sure people will say 'this isn't going to work'."

"It has the capacity to change a big game. I don't know what they do about that but it will happen."

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