Calls to ban tackling in junior rugby have been kicked into touch by North East fans.
In an open letter to ministers earlier this week, more than 70 doctors and healthcare academics said that injuries picked up in the sport can have lifelong consequences for children.
A letter written by the experts claims that two thirds of injuries in junior rugby are the result of tackles.
It reads: “The majority of all injuries occur during contact or collision, such as the tackle and the scrum.
“These injuries, which include fractures, ligament tears, dislocated shoulders, spinal and head injuries can have short-term, lifelong and life-ending consequences for children.”
Professor Allyson Pollock, one of the letter’s signatories, said that she had evidence showing that players up to the age of 19 had a 28 per cent risk of getting injured in a 15-match season.
She also said that 90 per cent of injuries resulted in more than seven days lost from school.
James Adamson, who played rugby from age eight to 21, believes that the culture of rugby needs to be changed, rather than removing tackling from the game.
He said: “I think there should be an increased emphasis on skills and technique which would make it safer to tackle.
“In addition, there should be teams based on size and weight rather than age. That way, tackling in matches at junior level is between similarly proportioned players.
Mr Adamson also believes that attributes considered necessary to succeed in the sport need to be reassessed.
He added: “At all levels of the game, rugby in the Northern Hemisphere needs to look past what seems like an obsession with getting huge in the gym and smashing into each other. There should be a greater emphasis on skill and technique.
“My son played rugby from primary school level through to secondary school but gave up because the standard of coaching was inadequate.”
Andrew Hobson, who plays rugby for the University of Sunderland, has described the campaign as “ridiculous”.
“It’s complete nonsense,” he said. “If you take tackling away from rugby then there is no rugby. It will probably ruin the game and make England fall further behind other nations.
“I’ve been playing since I was 11 and I’ve very rarely been injured, because we are taught at a young age about respect and the skills and techniques that are necessary to play the game properly.”
Mr Hobson believes that injuries are more likely to occur if tackling is removed from junior rugby.
He added: “I’m one of the smallest players on the pitch but I manage to tackle guys who are 20 stone. Can you imagine a lad who has never tackled before trying to tackle someone in their first ‘proper’ game? That’s when injuries do happen and players get badly hurt.
“If I hadn’t been taught how to tackle and learned how to make them, I’d have been scared in my first match, but I’ve been given the confidence throughout my junior career to be able to make tackles properly and, more importantly, safely.
“My mother is a GP and she’s more worried about me playing football or skiing!”
Daniel Gray, who captains the University of Sunderland side, believes that changes could have grave consequences for English rugby.
He said: “I’ve played since I was 11 and although I can see the logic behind why they want to ban it, I think it will just ruin the game across all ages.
“If you don’t learn to tackle properly when you’re young, it’s hard to get the right technique when you’re older. I think that will affect the quality of players coming through the grassroots system.
“It will effectively end any chance of English players reaching any kind of decent playing level.”
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