In an open letter to ministers, doctors and academics have asked for a ban on tackling in schools’ rugby matches in the UK and Ireland. A significant number of concussions and other injuries come from contact sport and the letter highlights the risk for under 18s.
The RFU said in a statement: "The RFU takes player safety extremely seriously and this is at the core of all the training of coaches, referees, medics and the players themselves, at all levels of the game.
“Rugby is a fantastic sport for children, bringing many physical and social benefits, including increased confidence, self-esteem and self-discipline, and enjoyable physical exercise as part of a team.”
David Elstone, Chair of HMC’s Sports Committee and Headmster of Hymers College, said: “The safety of the students is paramount in HMC schools and we take significant steps to ensure that all sports are played as safely as possible. There is an element of risk to playing any sport, including rugby, and that these risks must be taken seriously.
“Most of our schools already offer different versions of the game including touch and tag rugby, as well as the traditional contact version and risks are often discussed with players.
“HMC schools are also working actively with the RFU to make the sport as safe as possible. For example, all rugby staff now receive training on concussion and all schools now follow a strict set of concussion protocols. The young players are taught about the risks of concussion.
“In addition, far greater emphasis has been placed on safety and the management of risk during the game, including tighter refereeing of the scrum which appears to have successfully reduced the risk of injury.
“It is important that we fully understand the nature and extent of injuries in all sports and, as a result, many schools are collecting data for new joint research projects with the RFU and University of Bath. This research is ongoing and we will consider next steps on the basis of that new evidence.
“The concerns being raised now by some medical professionals are already being treated seriously and action is being taken. However, to stop all contact rugby immediately would be premature. Instead, we need to gather sufficient evidence, and adopt a balanced approach which weighs the undoubted benefits of the sport against these concerns.”