Lancs coach Nelson defends tackling

England's Kieran Brookes powering through a tackle by Scotlands Fraser Brown during the Six Nations match at Twickenham, as more than 70 doctors and health experts have written to the Government calling for a ban on tackling in school rugby games
England's Kieran Brookes powering through a tackle by Scotlands Fraser Brown during the Six Nations match at Twickenham, as more than 70 doctors and health experts have written to the Government calling for a ban on tackling in school rugby games
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Lancashire coach Mark Nelson has warned that to outlaw tackling from the junior game would have serious consequences for the future of rugby union.

But Nelson, one of the most experienced and widely respected coaches in the county, said the sport should always be vigilant about the welfare and safety of young players.

The debate started up after a group of more than 70 doctors and health experts wrote to the government to call for a ban on tackling in school rugby matches.

They warn of a high risk of serious injury among Under-18s and said schools should move to touch rugby and non-contact rugby.

Nelson, in charge of the successful Lancashire county side, said: “The concussion issue within sport has become a big area of debate recently .

“The Rugby Football Union initiative ‘Don’t be a headcase’ takes the lead in recognising the need to educate people involved with the game on the serious issues around blows to the head.

“The medical recommendations contained within the report are obviously derived from genuine research and where children are concerned there is rightly a need to be very vigilant when it comes to safety in all forms of activity within schools.

“As a former teacher, I realise that good practice is extremely important and when children are playing any form of game which involves contact such as football, hockey, boxing, judo, basketball and rugby of either code, then correct techniques are a must when it comes to developing their skill set to play each sport.”

Nelson has coached hundreds of youngsters in his career, among them former Kirkham Grammar School student Kieran Brookes, who took up the game at six years of age and is now an established international.

He added: “Taking tackling out of the game until the leave school will have a serious knock-on effect when they play post 16 or 18.

“If players haven’t learned and experienced correct techniques in their formative years how can they possibly be expected to suddenly jump into the adult game?

“School has many important roles, one of which is preparing children for adult life which includes sport.

“Another aspect of contact rugby is that it teaches young players self discipline and respect for others.

“Of course, these medical experts will look at ‘collisions’ in isolation but when taken in the fuller context of the role of sport, in this case rugby, within a school curriculum ,the pros far outweigh the cons.

“That is not to say it isn’t an issue and the RFU go to great lengths to ensure safe practice when teaching the game to young players.

“So with proper education and development of players techniques in the contact area I firmly believe that the RFU rules of play and ‘Don’t be a Headcase’ along with an excellent coaching system makes the game of rugby a perfect sporting option for young people in a school environment.”