Rugby Style Tackling: Changing the Game for the Good

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Until a few years ago, rugby style tackling was shunned by most football coaches. Coaches like Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer was totally against the idea until 2013 when his defensive coordinator Chris Ash turned him on to the idea.

According to this 2015 article by, Ash got the idea from Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll who has been using the technique for years. The thought of defenders using their shoulders to tackle, changing target points on a ball carrier and emphasizing wrapping up around the legs wasn't an easy sell to Meyer according to Ash, but eventually he did buy in.

As Ash continued to study this technique, he realized most of his players had already been using rugby style tackling all of their careers, so this was not going to be different for them.

As Meyer described it, the idea of rugby tackling “was one that I fought at first and I said no, we're not going to do that. " But Ash kept at it and finally convinced Meyer to make a change; a change that would benefit the team down the road.

“Chris Ash is very persistent, he's a very good coach, and (like) good coaches who really believe in something, stayed on me. … I listened. I did as much research as I could and ultimately we jumped in. Tremendous success right out of the get-go. You could see the difference.”

The difference is a year later the Buckeyes would go on to win a national championship partly because of that defense.

One of the reasons rugby style tackling is becoming popular is because it may decrease concussions. Besides Ohio State, Georgia State and TCU are now adopting the same style.

Although there is no concrete proof that rugby style tackling prevents concussions, there is hope according to Dr. Robert Cantu, a Boston University neurosurgeon.

“Just the concept of taking your head out of tackling is good,” Cantu said. “Does it suddenly make tackling safe? Of course not. But to the extent you keep the head out of the hit, you're less susceptible. It's a good tackling technique. It's used in rugby for a reason. Unfortunately, they still have a lot of head injuries, but the head contact is accidental.”

Rugby style tackling may be the way to not only prevent injuries, but it could save the game we love. 

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