It has received derision in some quarters, but All Blacks coach Steve Hansen supports World Rugby's new trial which states all tackles must be made below a ball-carrier's "nipple line".

In a further bid to protect the safety of players – and especially their head area – the game's governing body will bring in the trial for the under-20s World Cup in France which kicks off later this month.

Presumably if it is successful the regulation will be rolled out to all levels of the game. The law currently states that tackles must be made below the shoulder.

World Rugby had already brought in tougher sanctions for above-the-shoulder tackles, including directives for match officials to punish offenders with yellow or red cards but as the concern about concussion in the game mounts, so the organisation has felt the need to lower the hit zone as it were.


"I think it's good, I think it's better than below-the-shoulder because there's quite a lot of games where you make the tackle and it doesn't look to be a bad tackle and yet it's been penalised," Hansen said today.

"The clearer you can make it the better – we all know where our nipples are, so hit below that and you're okay.

"Is it going to solve the problems? We're still going to get concussions because you've got two or three people piling into a collision and not everyone's putting their head in the right place."

Victor Vito is caught in a high tackle. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Victor Vito is caught in a high tackle. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Hansen went on to say that Crusaders and All Blacks midfielder Ryan Crotty's recent concussion was a good example of an accidental clash. In trying to make a tackle at Eden Park recently, Crotty collided with the forearm of Ofa Tu'ungafasi after the Blues prop threw an unexpected pass.

"There are still going to be unavoidable ones because it's such a physical game," Hansen said. "What we've got to do is take care of those people when it does happen to them and I think what we're seeing from all the [New Zealand] franchises is that that's happening."

Other critics will point out that a more dangerous area of the game is the ruck cleanout, whereby attacking players charge in to blast opponents out of the way while their opponent in same cases has their head down looking at the ball.

Despite the clear and obvious dangers, World Rugby appear strangely reluctant to tweak this area yet want to add what some will criticise as an extra grey area to the tackle law.

Former Wallabies wing Drew Mitchell told Australia's Daily Telegraph: "I am 100 per cent behind making the game safer, we don't want people suffering concussion, but one of the biggest criticisms of our game at the moment is the inconsistency of refereeing and interpretation of the rules.


"That's across all levels of the game; from junior to club to professional, you get different interpretations of the same rule.

"By saying 'nipple' in the new law, you're making a generalisation that referees can't possibly rule with any consistency.

"They've just created a greater grey area and confusion around high tackles.

"They could have gone with armpits, the referees and fans can see where that is. This has been poorly worded."

The obvious issue is that no one – neither players, officials nor spectators nor viewers – can see exactly where the nipple line is. There is only a general area that officials will have to make a snap judgement on.

World Rugby said in a statement: "Rugby is committed to an evidence-based approach to injury-prevention, and with the latest comprehensive research determining that tacklers who are upright carrying the greatest risk of head-injury, the trials are designed to change player behaviour by getting the tackler to attempt lower tackles and therefore lower the risk of injury.

"As a result, the acceptable height of the tackle will be lowered through revised on-field and off-field sanctions, encouraging players to bend at the waist when attempting a tackle."