Dave Craven: Tackle the problem but don’t forget that rugby is a contact sport

Castleford Tigers' Justin Carney tackles Rhinos Ash Handley. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

Castleford Tigers' Justin Carney tackles Rhinos Ash Handley. (Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe)

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I have always liked South Elmsall folk. They say it as it is.

A few of my school mates were from there, the town roughly situated halfway between Wakefield and Doncaster, and they certainly never minced their words.

I did my first stint of work experience at the Hemsworth and South Elmsall Express, too, seeing my name in print for the first time and getting my first real taste for this journalism gig.

I met some cracking people along the way.

Anyway, all of this is why I had to chuckle at Robbie Mulhern’s Tweet the other day.

The young prop, who hails from South Elmsall and recently switched clubs from Leeds Rhinos to Hull KR, was responding to news about the much-publicised report that argued tackling should be banned in school rugby.

“Yeah, sounds good should start doing IT without computers too” was Mulhern’s pithy response.

Like I said, they do like to get to the point in South Elmsall; succinct, terse, gruff, label it however you want, he summed it up perfectly.

Doctors and academics can argue long and hard about the dangers of playing rugby at school level and I understand the arguments.

There have been serious injuries sustained as long as the game has been played and that will probably never change even if the sport does get watered down in some way. But, essentially, it is a contact sport and, therefore, people do realise that such things can happen if they partake.

The physicality of rugby, or any contact sport for that matter, is what, more often than not, help build character, determination and resolve.

If the relevant authorities did somehow manage to ban tackling – and thankfully that doesn’t look like happening – they may as well ban rugby itself, too, as one doesn’t go without the other.

Of course, safety can be improved and coaching children the correct manner in which to tackle is paramount.

Furthermore, making them wear protective headgear – many do but it is not mandatory – would also help reduce the risk of head injuries.

There are plenty of ways to limit the potential for injuries while, admittedly, never being entirely failsafe. Parents should have the choice; if they do not want their child to take part in full-contact rugby then it is fair enough to say they should be able to withdraw them from such activity.

But it is futile to suggest the skill – and it is a skill, let’s not forget – should be eradicated completely.

There are those who cite it will ruin the chance of England ever tasting international success again, at either league or union, and they would have a point. It would surely set the sport back significantly in that regard.

But, again, that should not be the reason for shooting this report’s findings down.

For me, even if the national side never experiences such global glory again it would pale into insignificance compared to the loss of so many children missing out on a traditional upbringing in the sport.

I suffered plenty of injuries playing sport both as a child and as an adult but I never resented that fact.

Preparing yourself for the challenge of making a tackle is something I always loved even if I wasn’t particularly good at it – as those South Elmsall characters and plenty of others found out quite quickly.

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