Sun. Apr 18th, 2021

It seems that the discussions on here and the messageboard regarding the number of injuries being sustained in the modern game are mirroring those taking place nationally, with debate raging yesterday as to whether tackling should be banned in schools to prevent serious injury, especially concussion.

It appears that a group of British medical experts thinks it should be.

The papers and national news are full of doctors expounding their arguments as to why injuries sustained by pupils playing rugby in schools are often ‘serious’ and damning rugby as a ‘high impact collision sport’, suggesting that there’s a 1 in 4 chance of serious injury.

A group of 70 medical experts have written an open letter suggesting that pupils playing the game in schools are in serious danger of injury and that a ‘softer’ form of the game should be played, even higher up the age groups, that is more akin to touch rugby.

At a time when the RFU are looking to increase the numbers of youngsters playing the game in schools to over 1 million, the medical profession seem intent on dumbing down the game and wrapping Britain’s youngsters in cotton wool.

The letter contains the following statement:

Rugby is a high-impact collision sport and given that children are more susceptible to injuries such as concussion, the absence of injury surveillance systems and primary prevention strategies is worrying.

Children are being left exposed to serious and catastrophic risk of injury. As a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the UK and Irish governments should ensure the safety of rugby, by removing the contact from the children’s game in schools.

It smacks a little of scaremongering to me and were I a parent and not particularly interested in rugby or aware of the intricacies of the game, Professor Pollock’s belief that injuries occurring in school’s rugby can cause:
short-term, life-long and life-ending consequences for children
I would seriously think twice about letting my child play rugby.
I think I’d feel a huge sense of unease at reading such an emotive statement from someone who is clearly so well respected within the medical profession. However, I do have some understanding of what is involved in the game in schools and to me it smacks more of hyperbole than it does of truth. At it’s most simplistic, of course the statement is true…serious injuries do occur in rugby, even in rugby played in schools, but the implication from reading this is that serious injury is pretty much a common occurrence, which just isn’t the case.
All sport contains some inherent dangers – for me, hockey always resulted in more injuries than rugby as a child and I always fancy my chances of getting out of ruck or a scrum in one piece which wasn’t always the case when confronted by some spotty teenager brandishing a hockey intent on doing me harm simply because Emma Jenkins in 5B wanted to meet me behind the bicycle sheds rather than him.
It is of course the responsibility of schools to ensure a safe environment at all times, and anything  on the curriculum that creates the likelihood of a child sustaining injury should be treated with extreme caution. However, all schools have their own risk assessment matrix and where an event or activity is deemed to be either of high, or even medium, risk, it would never be allowed to take place without a full assessment being undertaken and all staff aware of procedures in place in case of accident or injury.
Rugby does not fall into either a medium or high risk category as whilst there is a risk of injury, injuries sustained from playing the game would be in line with those occurring in most school sports and the risk of a serious injury would be low. There would be strategies in place to deal with any emergency that might happen, approved by the Head and Governing Body.
Anyone child playing school rugby is benefiting hugely the experience in a plethora of ways, any one of which for me outweighs the potential disadvantages and the slight risk of sustaining an injury.
Not only are there the benefits to the individual from  increased exercise, something that many youngsters get all too little of in the 21st century,  but because rugby is very much a team sport, it has all the rewards accruing from working together and being required to cooperate, take on the responsibility for, and leadership of, others as well as yourself. It develops character and heightens those traits which are so important in the adult world such as resilience, learning how to win and lose, the notion of fair play and respect for the opposition and how to work towards a target.
Further, statistics suggest that 1 in 3 children between the ages of 2 and 15 in the UK are overweight, increasing to 62% in adults (with a BMI of over 25). The long-term risks of ill-health as a result of obesity seem to me to be far, far greater than those attached to playing schoolboy rugby.  The more children you can get involve in activities such as rugby and football, the more they are likely to continue to involve themselves in some form of exercise once they reach adulthood. Surely, this alone is reason enough not only to maintain the status quo but also to increase the numbers of children involved in rugby even further?
I can only imagine what Matt Price must be thinking. The community work Matt offers is ‘priceless’ for all those reasons mentioned above and whilst a lot of it is non-contact or touch rugby in the initial stages, I’m sure he would want the children he works with to develop their interest in rugby further and hopefully participate in competitive rugby, that involves tackling, as they move up the juniors age ranges.
As you would expect, it appears that the RFU are taking the present concerns very seriously and have been researching the possible dangers for several years, and are looking to minimise further the risks to children of receiving a serious injury. A spokesperson for the RFU confirmed that:
that full 15-a-side rugby will begin a year later at under 14 and provide a gradual and more managed introduction of the contact game around the tackle will take place from under nine to under 12 instead of over just two years at under nine and under 10 as previously. This will give players, teachers and coaches more time to master the techniques in a safer and more supportive environment.”
The RFU has apparently already carried out a ‘3 year injury and surveillance study’ on schoolboys as well as developing a RugbySafe guidance programme ready for the introduction into school from September onwards. I would tentatively suggest that there is already lots being done behind the scenes to make the game safer and whilst there is still more to be done, the various policies that are currently being implemented need to be given more time before passing any further judgements as to whether tackling should be removed from the game of rugby in schools.
Already many international players are making their feelings clear through social media. There is clearly a strong opposition to the proposed banning of tackling in schools from those that play the game and this tweet from none other than Jamie Roberts typifies what most seem to be saying:

Please could you indicate on the poll below whether you are supportive of the proposed banning of tackling from rugby below the U18 age range? I appreciate everyone reading this blog is a follower of the game and with that in mind, this  probably won’t be the most accurate of polls. However, most of us are parents or will have younger relatives who are of an age where this is relevant and will have an opinion on the present very public debate…
…are you worried enough about the safety or otherwise of children playing rugby in schools and organised clubs to ban tackling altogether?
Many thanks in advance, for your support…
 Another player has just released a ‘video’, well two actually, of his ‘best bits’.
Jacques le Roux.
Now I’m not going to make any comment as to the reasons why Jacques might have put it out there on YouTube, but I would urge you to have a look and draw your own conclusions. It’s a well produced and there’s enough in there to make you wonder.
I’m hoping that Jacques feels the same way as he did back in December, in an article in the Coventry Telegraph, when he mused:
My contract finishes this year so we will see what happens. It all depends on the body and if the club want me to stay on, but it would great to play another season or two and my aim is to help Cov get back in the Championship.
Whilst his injury record hasn’t been great over the last couple of seasons, I really hope the club will offer Jacques another contract. At his best, there’s no one better in the league and he is a player to whom the Butts faithful have really taken to, as was shown when he topped the MVP poll earlier in the season. He’s a crowd pleaser, and his surging runs, breaking tackles and searing through defences is always one of the highlights of any game he’s been part of.
Neither clip is presented in a way that suggests Jacques is ready to hang up his boots, but they do seem more than just a compilation of the best of JLR…
We’ll have to wait and see whether Jacques remains, but he’s definitely a keeper to me.
Whatever the reasons behind them, they are certainly a great watch and proof, if any is needed, of just what a great player Jacques is when fit.
The second one seems to be an extended version of the first

By Tim

Any thoughts:

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