It's impossible to stress how important it is that paranoid academics in the UK aren't allowed to get their way and have tackling taken out of schools rugby.

If that happens, it won't just kill rugby in the UK, it will most likely kill it everywhere. And it won't just kill rugby . . . it will most likely end up killing all contact sport because why arbitrarily pick on rugby?

And that's kind of what this is about. Rugby is the most obvious sport for fearful medics to target.

It is built on an ethos of collision. Win them and win the game. Collisions are inevitable. Collisions are encouraged. Collisions are seen as an area where players can develop highly specific and regarded skills.


Not everyone likes that concept and rugby to the uninitiated - to almost everyone really - can seem like it is barbaric. It can seem brutally pointless - a game for school-yard bullies to become the hero of the hour.

Professors Allyson Pollock and Graham Kirkwood clearly don't like the concept of rugby and have become the leading voices agitating for change in the way it is played in British schools.

They want to see tackling and scrummaging banned.

They have reached that view after analysing multiple research projects and statistics which, crudely summarised, have shown that the injury rate among children, particularly concussions, is higher in rugby than other non-contact sports.

They have also concluded that tackling is the main source of injury.

This is hardly ground-breaking and would seem to be a case of academics winning huge media attention by stating the obvious but making it seem more credible and powerful on the basis they are scientists.

Pretty much anyone would have imagined that the injury rates in rugby are higher than they are in most other non-contact sports which is why it doesn't feel they are really changing the picture much when they suggest in their report that playing rugby has been found to be 500 times more dangerous than going for a bike ride.

What is particularly odd is that in the piece published in the BMJ, the authors wrote: "We call on CMOs to act on the accumulating evidence and advise the UK government to put the interests of the child before the interests of corporate professional rugby unions and remove the tackle and other forms of harmful contact from the school game."

Kids aren't playing rugby at the request of professional rugby unions. They are playing because it is fun and it is rewarding.

They are playing because they learn about themselves and others - see the value of being part of a team, of working together to achieve a common goal.

A game, the foundation of which is built on colliding into other humans, obviously carries an inherent risk of injury, but those who play accept that.

The question is around the size of that risk and while the injury rate is higher in rugby than it is in cycling, is it actually high?

It's not about being comparative and while more kids are hurt playing rugby than they are doing other things, there is still no significant evidence that anyone should be concerned by the actual injury rates.

Is the fact that research in the US showed that the concussion rate in children playing rugby was four occurring for every 1,000 hours of rugby played, really a major concern?

If the answer is yes and rugby is forced to be altered in the UK to reflect the perceived injury risk, then the case will have to be made that all contact sports will have to be changed as they too will deliver evidence that they are considerably more dangerous than other non-contact sports.

Where will it end?

Who will be the arbiter of what is safe enough for kids to play?

Will all sport have to prove it can produce a zero injury return to be deemed acceptable?

Seems like it would be best if the academic group lobbying to change rugby found something better to do with its time.