There is going to be an unusually high number of red cards in this year's Super Rugby. That's a solid bet.

World Rugby is on a mission to lower the acceptable height that tacklers hit ball carriers and has invoked a zero tolerance policy for Super Rugby referees to follow.

A high tackle that is deemed to be deliberate and with intent - that will be an automatic red card. The Northern Hemisphere has been playing under this edict for the last five months and inevitably, has faced accusations from former players about the soul having been ripped out of the game.

No one likes the idea of needlessly softening the code and however venomous the resistance has been in Europe, it will be worse in the Southern Hemisphere where explosive, chest-high tackling is more deeply ingrained. Some may even say confrontational tackling is in the DNA of Super Rugby players perhaps as a result of the heavy Pacific influence or just because the grounds here are harder and the rugby faster which has forced more dynamic defending.


Whatever, there's going to be a few players in trouble every week when they clock someone that fraction higher than the officials like. There are going to be irate coaches wondering when and how soccer moms took over the governance of their sport and there are going to be officials berated for being overly harsh and devoid of any feel for the true nature of the game.

None of this, though, is going to lead to World Rugby backing down. As far as they are concerned, this is not some kind of crazy, experimental law. It is an education process - a relentless drive to retrain players to lower their contact point at the tackle.

It is an attempt to divest rugby of those iffy moments when the tackler is upright, the head coming in at the same height as the ball carriers. They want the tackler bent at the waist, attempting to be parallel with the ground rather than perpendicular.

These sort of hits have become celebrated and glorified in recent years. Remember Jerry Collins' collision with Colin Charvis in 2003? A cataclysmic tackle by Collins that earned him worldwide fame but under the current edict, would have seen him sent off.

World Rugby wants these sort of tackles removed from the game and public pressure won't force them to change their view. The basis of this stricter policing is research which revealed the true danger high tacking poses. Between 2013 and 2015, World Rugby analysed 1516 elite games which produced 611 head injuries.

The study concluded that 76 per cent of head injuries occurred in the tackle and, 73 per cent of the time, it was the tackler who would be concussed. It was deemed that if the tackler was high and upright, they were 40 per cent more likely to suffer a head injury.

With that data in their midst, World Rugby concluded that they could potentially decrease the volume of concussions by more stringently applying the law and re-educating players to bend at the waist when they tackle.

What worries Super Rugby coaches is that they will encounter inconsistent application and interpretation of the law. They fear that good technique will sometimes be wrongly punished.

Most teams have sought feedback ahead of the competition starting about the approach referees will take and have been told that the key factor will be intent. If a referee deems a player has deliberately come in high and has been reckless - it will be an automatic red card.

This is why teams have spent the summer honing and refining their tackling technique.

"The biggest thing for us has been working on what we call the wrap - which is when we use our arms," says Blues assistant coach Alistair Rogers.

"We have spent a bit of time making sure that the arms do wrap and not slip up in the tackle. It is a bit tricky when a player has momentum but the law as it stands has always been there but now there is just more emphasis on it.

"As long as there is no intent and we get that wrap part right we should be okay. It is when the arm comes across and hits the chest, or maybe the top of the ball or the chin.

"With officiating, all we ask for is consistency. We have had the guidelines sent to us and we have had referees explaining things to us here in our training. So we have been proactive in that space."