Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Why contact tackling in Schools Rugby must be kept

by Kristian Ross

Kristian Ross column

It’s hard for me to say that contact tackling in school’s rugby should be retained after a group of medical professionals called for it to be scrapped today. As a teenager, my rugby exploits were none existent. I can recall a few games in PE classes, but my main memories are me and a close friend going down to a local rugby club and kicking off the tee. Nothing was sweeter than splitting the posts, but in terms of tackling, passing and my general read of the field, I knew that actually picking up the ball wasn’t for me and that critiquing the game from the comfort of my living room was a much more realistic prospect.

In terms of where I’m from, schools’s rugby is given little coverage and is not up to the standard of Northern Ireland, whether it be on the pitch itself, or in the media. The upcoming Schools Cup final between Inst and Campbell will no doubt be an excellent contest, but todays comments from doctors have cast a serious shadow on the future of the sport at academic level.

I remember the day that my friend’s son told his mother that he wanted to play rugby instead of hockey, but asked “will I get hurt?”. Her answer: “You could well go out and get hurt playing hockey, do what makes you happy”. Flash forward and the young man has played full back this season for his school and is clearly enjoying everything the game has to offer.

The last few weeks saw statistics that half of injuries in school rugby lead to a time of nearly four weeks out or more. Something has to change. But perhaps we should start treating young players like professional athletes. As strange as it seems, we see the likes of Ulster and Ireland hitting the gym numerous times a week, clearly building on their physique helps the body recover. Peter Robinson, the father of Ben Robinson who tragically died playing for Carrickfergus Grammar in a school’s match tweeted earlier today saying that “we do need to look at strength and conditioning. An incredibly brave comment from a man that lost his son, yet even he agrees that ditching contact is not the answer.

In terms of the game itself, we all we seriously underwhelmed with the Wales vs France match at the Principality Stadium last Friday. Many believe the Six Nations has taken a huge step back and that northern hemisphere rugby has regressed. It’s hard not to agree after watching last weeks Super Rugby highlights. The removal of contact from the game at school’s level will surely further harm the progress in Britain and Ireland.

Perhaps then we should now start to wonder just what preventive measure we can take in making sure that children are safer when stepping out. Protective headgear for all a potential suggestion and the aforementioned strength and conditioning of younger players. It’s clearly evident that with concussion protocols over the last few years, there has been improvement, but there is still work to be done. But many would say if you do want to wrap your child up in cotton wool, there’s a perfectly good football pitch somewhere down the way…

@Kristian7Ross - 21, Geordie, part time journalist and Irish Rugby fan


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