Should Lydiate’s style of tackling be given the chop?

Posted: March 9, 2016 in Uncategorized

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There’s a hurling goalkeeper from Cork, Ireland, named Anthony Nash. What makes Nash special, besides the fact he’s mental enough to want to play in that position, is that he was the penalty taker for his team.

Whenever Cork won a penalty, it was Nash who would jog the length of the field and try his hand at scoring. It wasn’t because he had a subtle skill that made him the best penalty taker on the team. It’s because he bent the rules.

Nash would rise the sliotar, but raise it high enough so as he could run in a few yards and blast it towards goal at a much closer range. Nothing wrong here-the rule simply stated that the player must raise the sliotar from the marked spot. Nash was doing exactly that.

But over the next few months, people began to complain. After all, this was a very dangerous practice and an opposition goalkeeper could incur a serious injury. Young players were seeing this and, as it normally resulted in a goal, were going to copy this style. Committees met, people argued, and low and behold the rule was changed. Now he had to strike the sliotar on or before the 20 metre line. All credit to the GAA, they recognised a dangerous practice and ruled it out before it resulted in a serious injury.

Why am I talking about Anthony Nash? Because the argument behind his style of penalty taking in hurling hints at a problem in rugby.

The chop tackle is probably the most effective tackle in rugby, especially in underage rugby when some children or teenagers tower over their opposite numbers. So kids are told to get low. The higher the tree, and all that.

This is good practice. It encourages low tackling, good positioning, and good technique. The chop tackle stops the player at source, and allows a supporting defender to to attempt a turnover.

Simple, straightforward, safe.

But now there comes the argument of Dan Lydiate, the world’s best chop tackler. He gets incredibly low, and more often than not, stops the attack at source.

The only problem is, much like Nash, Lydiate is bending the rules. Against France, he was penalised for not using his arms in the tackle, but by the TMO who told Barnes to come back for it. In fairness to Barnes, it’s tough to tell if a player uses his arms or not from four yards away.

But Lydiate aims for bootlaces,as the term goes. He goes as low as he physically can, which often results in him hitting area around the bottom of the shin. People may not agree with this, but that is dangerous.

I know we’re talking about a tackle that is the complete and utter opposite of a high tackle, which means it should be completely fine. But is it?

One of the more common types of non-contact knee injury occurs when the foot “sticks” to the ground and the knee or ankle experiences abnormal stress. As the player stops suddenly or plants his or her foot, the boot stays planted and the knee experiences both shear and rotational stress. This, in turn leads to increased risk of knee injury, particularly ruptures of the anterior cruciate ligament.

In Layman’s terms, if your foot is stuck in the ground and you’re moving forward, something has to give. Getting kicked in the shin is something we’ve all experienced. Somebody propelling their body weight into your shin, as your foot is planted in the ground with studs, is something completely different.

Teenagers hear about Lydiate’s tackle success and how he is one of the best defenders in the world due to his technique. Players all over the world play the game in order to have fun and develop as much as possible. Developing into a quality defender is also one of their goals.

It is simply dangerous. If done from the front, it can cause hyperextension of the knee, and from the side, a broken or seriously hurt ankle.

Again, people are going to argue that it’s not a high tackle, it isn’t the main cause of concussion, or we shouldn’t be talking about limiting another tackle while the ban on tackling in school’s/youth rugby is such a hot topic (which is simply ridiculous, I’d like to add).

All I want to ensure is that the chop tackle stays as safe as possible-arms used, and not looking to hit someone’s lower shin bone as their leg is already planted. All it requires is a little tweak in the laws and referees to clamp down on it. Suddenly, we get the safe tackle we want to see practised without the negatives involved.

Much like the controversy of Nash and his penalty-taking style, all it requires is a little tweak.

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