Sports

Australian coach welcomes ‘nipple law’ but calls for common sense

Junior Wallabies coach Jason Gilmore has applauded World Rugby's so-called new "nipple law" but called for common sense in its application.

Gilmore is in France preparing the Australia for the Under 20s World Championship, the first competition to trial the new tackle laws that were announced last week.

'Nipple law': New trial requires tackler to bend at the waist before making contact with ball carrier.

Photo: EPA

He had just taken the squad through their first contact session working under the new laws, which lowered the acceptable tackle height from below the shoulders to below the nipple line.

Gilmore told Fairfax Media he supported anything that made the game safer for players but warned the implementation of the "high tackle warning" system would make or break its reception.

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"The directive is for the tackler to bend at the waist and make contact below the nipple. Generally before that it was underneath the armpits, so the height hasn't changed a lot, it's more focus on the tackler bending at the waist and making sure they aren't upright," Gilmore said.

"The big focus is on protecting our players, which I agree with, I think that's a good thing. Where we've got to be careful is using common sense during and post game on how we screen for the tackles and what a potential citing of foul play is."

The law trial attracted criticism from a number of quarters in Australia, with former Test winger-turned-commentator Drew Mitchell and Queensland coach Brad Thorn both accusing the World Rugby of trying to turn the game soft.

"Soon it'll be the belly button … where's it going to go, where's it going to end?," Thorn said after his side's 18-15 loss to the Highlanders on Saturday. "For me, I'm just pleased I'm retired because (when he played) you could just cut loose.

"If you look at the UFC and MMA or whatever, it just keeps growing because you see two people go to war, physically … and there is so much respect between them at the end. I still reckon the (rugby) crowds enjoy some contact, some physicality."

Mitchell warned the trial, if expanded, would turn the game into "touch rugby".

"Let's call it how it is, soon rugby as we know it won't exist and we will be watching touch rugby! World Rugby with this interpretation you are opening yourselves up for so much negativity. You have just increased the 'grey area'. Well done!" he said on Twitter.

Gilmore said his squad was adjusting well to the trial laws but habitual change would take time.

"Tackle technique should be that way anyway, your first man in [to the tackle] it isn't going to affect too much, it's more your second man in – because they'll generally hit a big higher because there's less space – he will have to be careful with his technique," he said.

World Rugby said the trial was based on research from more than 1500 elite matches, which revealed that a high-contact tackle, when the tackler is upright, holds a risk of injury 4.3 times higher than a low-contact tackle.

Georgina Robinson

Georgina Robinson is a Sports Reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald

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