You wonder if World Rugby's new trial, penalising players who don't tackle properly, might end up like the two tiny-brained tosspots from Texas this week – dead in the water.
Those two geniuses were in a car on the Black Bayou drawbridge in Louisiana. As a boat approached, the bridge opened and raised the two ramps in the middle of the bridge so the boat could pass, closing the bridge to car traffic.
Nuh-uh. An eyewitness saw the passenger in the car leap out and open the gate arm barring the way. The driver then reversed back, revved up and tried to jump the gap. The car leapt in the air, did not make the other side and hurtled into the water. Two men, a 23-year-old and 32-year-old, died.
I mention this because, by any reasonable analysis, their fate was pretty much sealed when they had their lightbulb moment.
World Rugby are testing their own idea whereby those who cause a head injury through faulty tackling are sanctioned. The High Tackle Warning System is being trialled at under-20s level in the UK. If a tackler goes into a tackle in an upright position and there is an associated head injury, the tackler receives a warning – even if the tackler is the one with the injury. That's a bit like sending the two deceased people a traffic ticket.
After three warnings through a tournament or competition, a sanction is applied to the player who may then be stood down for a game. If this move reduces the head injury count, it could be applied at Super Rugby and test level.
You have to applaud the intent, even if the outcome looks dubious. For a start, the wheels of rugbydom grind exceeding slow. It's been known since 2015 (from World Rugby's own study of 1500 matches played from 2013-2015) that 76 per cent of head injuries occur in the tackle, with 72 per cent applying to the tackler, not the ball carrier.
Four years later, we are finally taking steps to protect the right people. All the hullabaloo about protecting the ball carrier's head was rugby being seen to be doing something about head injuries, even if not addressing the major cause.
Modern rugby has evolved into a fast-paced, bruising game played by ever bigger and faster athletes trained in rush defence, double tackles, largely unpoliced when it comes to the offside line and who are allowed to clean out players who don't have the ball. Big hits on the ball carrier are now not just a fan favourite – they are a method of turning over possession.
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The facility for head-hurting accidents is many and varied – much more so than in past years. The sight of sickening, accidental head clashes has become more common and is a result of many factors, not just tacklers going into a tackle too upright.
Anyone who has played the game to a reasonable level knows that it is all too easy to get a tackle wrong; the ball carrier can, and does, take elusive action; the pace of the game has increased to the extent decisions have to be made at pace and in split seconds. It has become so fast, half a team of power athletes routinely arrive on the field from about 60 minutes.
The commentators call it "fresh legs" but it's really another phalanx of highly-trained troops soldiers sent on to take advantage of those tiring and who are perhaps more liable to concussion or damage as a result. It would be interesting to know if more head injuries occur in the first or second half of matches – my money's on the latter.
So forgive the cynicism but I do not believe sanctioning a tackler for getting a tackle wrong will reduce the head injury count by much, if at all; the reasons for such injuries are deeper and more varied.
World Rugby is trying to lower the tackle so players drop their heads below head height to avoid head-on-head accidents. But, come on…heads aren't hurt by knees, hips and boots?
Here are some other suggestions to make rugby safer:
• No substitutions unless for genuine injuries.
• Players to play for 80 minutes – many are bulked up to give maximum effort over 60 minutes or so. Let's return to players who have to last the 80 minutes and who can take advantage of the space in the last 15-20 minutes.
• Police the offside rule, properly, to give attackers and defenders more time and to reduce the brutal effectiveness of rush defences.
• Return the game and the forward packs to more of a possession contest; the current helter-skelter, imitation rugby league format only makes injuries more likely.
• Remove the clean-out and the rolling maul – the former is the only part of rugby where it is legal to tackle someone without the ball; the latter is the only time team-mates are allowed to be in an offside position and run interference.
Not things which can be accomplished in five minutes but are we talking player safety or not?
Okay, you have to applaud World Rugby for trying to do something. But let's legislate for the majority – and let's not punish those who have already punished themselves.