Tana Umaga won't be happy.

The former Hurricanes and All Blacks captain will long live in rugby folklore for his on-field comment to referee Peter Marshall in a Super 12 semi-final in 2003 match after a tackle on Crusader Dan Carter.

"It's not tiddlywinks mate", an incredulous Umaga protested to the ref after he was penalised.

Under rugby's new tackling rules to be introduced on January 3 of next year, Tana might have been heading for an early shower, possibly along with his team-mate in the video who checked a Crusaders player in the background.

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He'd be at least yellow-carded under the new edict.

There are already prominent former players around the rugby globe saying the game is about to realise Umaga's fear and be transformed forever.

Some are even describing it as the day rugby changed forever.

World Rugby's new law on contact with the head

Perhaps in fear of a blanket lawsuit for concussion-related injuries as endured recently by America's National Football League (NFL), World Rugby has had to move.

The recent wave of concussion suffered by players during the 1960s and 1970s, as unearthed in Herald writer Dylan Cleaver's award-winning editorial series earlier this year, could even be considered the legal wake-up call.

The English have been the first to absorb the likely changes which were issued by World Rugby overnight NZ time.

A couple of identities have already expressed concern about what the changes will do to our game.

Former England international and Harlequins defence coach Nick Easter said on Twitter the new rule will bring diving into the game of rugby.

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"Goodbye to the game as we know it! Enter play acting/diving to punish tacklers. Madness and bedlam will ensue," the 54-test veteran tweeted.


Another former Lion, current Wasps club boss Dai Young, described moves to crack down on accidental high tackling as a "bit of a joke".

Young's comments came after Wasps debutant Kurtley Beale was shown a yellow card in their European Champions Cup win against Connacht last Sunday.

"Player welfare is huge and we are 100% behind that," the former Welsh prop told the BBC.

"But we have to decide whether we play touch rugby or contact."

"There is no way that was a yellow card. It is starting to get a bit of a joke really."

"I don't want to play down the player safety element, but we can't go overboard with it.

"Anything above the nipple area at the moment seems to be a yellow card, which is taking some things away from the game."

World Rugby says it now has a zero-tolerance approach to reckless and accidental head contact in the sport.

In a change to the game's law book, punishment for a high tackle will increase and the acceptable height of a tackle has been effectively lowered.

If a player makes a tackle where they knew there would be risk to an opponents head, the minimum punishment will be a yellow card. That includes a tackle that starts below the shoulders.

If a player makes accidental contact with an opponents head, even in a slipping tackle, the team will be penalised.

The new law could have a instant impact on the game. In the All Blacks' 21-9 win Ireland last month, under the new rules Malakai Fekitoa could have been red-carded for a reckless high tackle on Simon Zebo instead of the yellow card he received.

Sam Cane would have more likely have been yellow-carded for a accidental high shot on Robbie Henshaw which saw the Irishman stretched from the field.

The new laws have their supporters.

Former England and Lions first five-eighth Stuart Barnes told Radio Sport this morning that he supports the changes.

"Coaches have got into the culture of hits, players have got into the culture of hits," Barnes said.

"Players are stronger, they have better conditioners so at what stage of this power arms race for powerful players going to stop because if it doesn't there's going to be an accident and someone's going to have something terrible happen to them," he told Radio Sport Breakfast.

"We're going to be in a state where people are not going to want to play rugby because it is just too fierce and too ferocious. That is an issue. If it means every now and then someone gets a red card because they hit the shoulder and rides up then I think that's right."