FRATRICIDE in Rugby Union!

The big dilemma with ‘TACKLE’ vs ‘SHOULDER CHARGE’, and ‘ASSAULT’

This subject to me is like an invitation to party… with my keyboard. So much commentary is going on in global sports regarding this chain-reaction like consequences after episodes of brain degenerative diseases. These issues beg full attention from all and sundry, yet more so from ADMINSTRATORS, AGENTS, INSURERS and LAWYERS.

The injuries and illnesses affecting contact sports and others less confrontational, such as soccer, volleyball, basketball, cricket, etc. where a player

a) May or may not be hit by a hard ball on the head,

b) A clash of heads and neck, with an opposite or same team player

c) Be tackled by an opposite player (from hips down), or shoulder charged (neck and head)

d) Falling on a solid surface, a whiplash effect may cause damages also

I want to take this opportunity to share some of my views and thoughts that have been inside my head for a long time. Fifty years of experience with several different sports, and studies in different subjects such as psychology, strength conditioning, neurology, mental health management, team and individuals coaching, have come to roost.

Well before the announcement by the IRB (International Rugby Board), World Rugby of today! Who declared, “Rugby-is-no-longer-amateur’ back in 1995 RWC in South Africa. I will unapologetically indulge and expand on concepts and arguments that may be too foreign to a lot of people. Particularly those in World Rugby, who are devoid of common sense, and oblivious of especial nuances not apparent to the naked eye.

I will refer to some non-written ethical concepts and the morality of fair human beings may dictate ‘ways’ to handle things in life. In sports, we need a Fair Law which will enable two teams to go through 80 minutes of hard Yaka without killing each other, also regardless of nationalities or social upbringings, etc. We may call it an equal understanding by all those involved in the sport. These may be foreign concepts in the 21st century (since the 1995 RWC). Very often completely ignored by administrators, referees, and Lawmakers. Furthermore, today’s politicians when they play the-man-not-the-ball! – From the justice and the Law point of view when we look for ‘the motif’?
Your Honour, may I remind you, of the morphing process rugby union has been subjected to. In the last 50 years, this sport has been mutating from a wonderful sport played at weekends to the three-headed monster (The Game, to The Show, and The Business). Today, the order has been altered to the detriment of The Game. So ironic it is… when you win, the show wins, that is a good business for all. 

The body of the tackler must aim to get horizontal in relation to the ground. This ‘intention’ / ‘attitude’, start in your head from the moment you ‘see’ the ball carrier. If this intention is not trained in the practice, it will never be corrected. Thus, the Aim and How a true tackle is made responds to the following technique: FROM THE BEGINNING, LEAD WITH BOTH ARMS TRYING TO EMBRACE THE BALL CARRIER AND CLOSE THE ARMS (Definitely not a shoulder charge or assault. If you aim to the hips with your shoulder, it is unnatural and very risky because you may miss the tackle and hit the ground (in this case, you will cushion your way to the ground by placing your hands first.

Rugby was invented or created as a replacement for physical battle with no quarters, an extremely hard but fair contest, hence the regulations. No better reference than the well-known quotes from Baron Pierre de Coubertin, on fair play. The ball carrier and the defender must have a ‘fair’ chance to contest or defend possession (the ball), and position (territory) – Furthermore, the prospect of sustaining an injury must be for both sides. The Spirit of the game, the Law and the Gentlemen who agree to play to win, say so. Not playing to hurt or maim! – The 30 players have friends and families, for some is a way fair of sustaining their household. Others may become money-making millionaires. Ca C’est La Vie En Rose!

PRINCIPLES OF RUGBY The four principles of rugby were and still are:

1) Go Forward; 2) Support the ball carrier; 3) Continuity of movements, and 4) Pressure when in defence. 

In my not-so modest opinion, professional paid Rugby (since 1995)

has committed ‘fratricide’ towards CONTINUITY.


Rugby today has over the last 26 years developed a ‘conscious’ bias towards favouring attack” – Why is it so? – In my philosophical and aesthetic perception, defence and attack have similar mental, physical and emotional processes of adapting our actions and reactions to the existing Laws. The objective of rugby and any other competitive sport is TO WIN (you also are likely to make more money by winning). So, referees, coaches, administrators, spectators, and media should leave players alone to win by one single point (so be it!) regardless of How is done. Therefore, defence is 50% of the game! –

Attack without defence equals No Game – In Cricket, you have No ball – In Boxing, a match may be suspended due to lack of ‘combativity’! – If you have no fair play, you have no contest, we might as well toss a coin and go to the pub to celebrate…? Sadly, Rugby grassroots today have been submitted to the ICU (Intensive Care Unit) of sports. It is well-documented that human greed, media power ($$) ambition all money-driven power (JV capitalists) are sucking the life out of the followers and supporting the public. Rugby is heading towards the New Roman Circus of the oval ball… So, I quip, does TV want a blood-less spectacle?

The mindset and sciences (psychology and biochemistry) of a ‘defender’ are… to go and recover possession and position immediately (this is what rugby is about). Yet, when favouring ‘attack’, the defender’s frustration sets in. Anxiety, distress, anger, desperation, gamesmanship, negativity, ill attitude start boiling inside the head and blood of the defenders. So, my question to the boffins and experts is: Why incite the defenders even more? By allowing one team to retain possession, ad nauseum (Rugby League is the worst of them all). All players are trained to be hungry for the ball and knock the ball carrier whichever way as if life depends on it, and sometimes even more… (??) Money is the worst influencer-motivator.

To complete my self-appointed auditor and cleaner upper campaigner… Time to ‘the referees’ now. At times referees really are… the proverbial meat in the sandwich. We need to simplify the game with a LESS rigmarole process and stoppages, and… MORE outcomes-driven approach. The referee must be a Judge, not a Policeman! – Enable well, whistle up, play on and…no talk, Stop lectures, demonstrations, and showmanship.

Thus, athletes and coaches must constantly be encouraged to work fairly and respectfully with or against the other ‘cogs’ of the game. Hence, sweat…and you will get your pound of flesh! – Sports on the field must be like a clockwork of Intra-related individuals. So, to the administrators of this wonderful game, a short meaningful message: There is no room in rugby for favouritism, Nepotism, or Aristocracy. Therefore, teach and coach ‘meritocracy’ (Nirvana)… Let players, coaches, and referees ‘The Enablers’, work hard and have a fair-go-Mate! 

Enrique TOPO Rodriguez
Impresario | Philanthropist


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