Rugby Football League discuss possibility of removing or changing kick-offs amidst NRL debate

Aaron Bower

Catalans Dragons kick off the second half of their Magic Weekend clash with Wigan Warriors in 2023

Kick-offs in rugby league are unlikely to change after data suggested they do not provide a significant number of concussions in the sport.

There is a major debate ongoing in the NRL at present about the validity of kick-offs, and whether they are safe in their current format – a debate which was intensified by a concussion suffered by Moses Suli in a recent NRL game, after he collided with Jared Waerea-Hargreaves from a kick-off.

That led to an outcry from former players including England forward James Graham – but there is unlikely to be any change to kick-offs in this country, according to senior RFL figure, Robert Hicks.

The governing body have studied the amount of concussions caused directly from kick-offs, with a study of the most recent 200 concussions in Super League showing only three per cent of concussions come from a kick-off. The overwhelming majority come from tackles in-game.

“Kick-offs have a high incidence rate because there’s fewer of them.. the NRL, NFL and ourselves are all grappling the same point,” Hicks said.

“But there are relatively few kick-offs in a game so while the rate is high it doesn’t cause that many of our concussions.

“Challenge you have to find when making change is where do you place your bet where you can get bang for your buck. If that is only account for 3 per cent of concussions, and the line tackle is the one that creates the most concussions, we’re working on that area.”

A recent trial of laws last summer included modifying the kick-off to the 40-metre line to reduce the speed of collision. That has not carried forward into a recommended change but Hicks insisted: “Nothing is ever laid to rest, that’s the reality.

“James Graham articulated it well; the sport is the sport, and you can’t take away the gladiatorial part. But that data didn’t show any change in that incident.

“We should always be data led, and the data is there around tackle height more than line speed.”

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