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Friday Mar 27, 2015

Another Leigh Halfpenny concussion prompts questions about tackling technique

Another Leigh Halfpenny concussion prompts questions about tackling technique
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Leigh Halfpenny was removed from the field of play on Saturday having taken a serious blow to the side of his head when tackling Italy’s big Samuela Vunisa. It’s not the first time this has happened, prompting some questions about technique. 

Vunisa made a clean break from his own 22 following a line-out, and was allowed to continue to accelerate to full speed until he met the last line of defence, Leigh Halfpenny, on the halfway line.

The Welsh 15’s tackle, whilst undoubtedly remarkably brave, was also extremely poor technique.

“The thing is at full-back, people are running straight for you so you do have to have a proper technique and I think it’s shown on a few occasions that his technique is a little bit flawed,” said former Wales captain Gareth Thomas in his BBC column.

“It’s sad because he’s getting injured from a bad technique. There’s cause for concern there, just for one for his personal welfare, but also potentially missing tackles because he’s putting his head in the wrong place all the time. I think maybe he’s favouring one shoulder over another.”

Halfpenny made contact from the side, while coaches would say that Halfpenny should have hit with his left shoulder and placed his head behind the attacking player, thereby using the Italian’s momentum to bring him down.

However, Halfpenny used his right shoulder in the challenge and as a direct result his head was in front of Vunisa’s legs. After the contact it was clear that Halfpenny was not in a good way.

The medical staff were quick to realise and withdrew the fullback from the match shortly before halftime. After the break it was confirmed that concussion protocols were to be carried out, and the talisman kicker would play no further part in the afternoon’s proceedings.

Somewhat worrying is that this is not the first occasion on which Halfpenny has caused himself damage from sub-par tackling practise. In last year’s RBS Six Nations he made a try-saving tackle on English centre Luther Burrell which resulted in a dislocated shoulder for the Welshman, and his subsequent early departure from the tournament.  

Although such tackles are immensely brave and highly effective, his tendency to get injured performing them has raised concern amongst fans and critics alike, as pundit Jonathan Davies said “He’s brave as they come. He never shirks a tackle, but I’m slightly worried now at the amount of times I see him hit his head on the wrong side.”

Any criticism of Halfpenny’s technique stems only from a collective concern from the rugby community that he may do himself some permanent damage and cut short an already outstanding career. We hope to see him back on the pitch soon. 

View it here if you’re outside of the UK, Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Republic of Ireland & Italy

 

20 Comments

  • drg
    9:46 AM 02/04/2015

    Got to admit, I was wondering the same... #PennState

    Reply
  • danknapp
    4:01 PM 01/04/2015

    Were the two of you being groomed?

    Reply
  • marty
    11:55 PM 30/03/2015

    Thanks for the video, that's exactly the kind of tackle we don't see alot. Lewsey was able to protect himself AND take DeVilliers into touch. Textbook indeed.

    Reply
  • drg
    8:29 PM 30/03/2015

    Hence why I want to see other angles, it looked to me like he sort of stepped out the way, jumped out the way..

    Reply
  • stroudos
    11:08 AM 30/03/2015

    Nah... "Jumping into a tackle" is illegal. This isn't. What's he meant to do, deliberately leave his foot on the ground so that Lydiate can chop him down?

    Reply
  • stroudos
    10:49 AM 30/03/2015

    Specifically for side-one tackles you'll want to keep your head out of the way. I post this link every time there's a RD post on this type of tackle, so apologies to the regulars for being so tedious, but - Josh Lewsey set the gold standard for how a small full-back can smash a much bigger player running at pace, with this beauty on Jean De Villiers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsMdyjLUsxQ Head on "the right side", plenty of grunt through the leading shoulder, wrapped him up and dragged him out. Textbook stuff. That was bloody ages ago, yet you see increasing numbers of players trying to defend with their noggins.

    Reply
  • stroudos
    6:44 AM 30/03/2015

    Ha! Nice one. The version I was brought up on was "cuddle his arse, don't cuddle his cock".

    Reply
  • ljnumber8
    12:51 AM 30/03/2015

    "Sniff a Date". I'll never forget my first coach.

    Reply
  • drg
    2:04 PM 29/03/2015

    I'm not sure double standards is quite the right word. No one here is having a go at 1/2p. I'm far from a welsh fan, but 1/2p is a quality player in his own right and it's nice to see someone playing well in their career and having a decent career. If Sextons tackling technique gets him injured then it's something people will start to look at and scrutinise, but this tackle example from 1/2p is a near identical one to a past effort. I gave him the benefit of the doubt on the past effort as I don't think he'd have stopped a try any other way, however there was nothing really 'on' here that he could have stopped, other than a rampaging rhinoceros from making it another 20-30 metres until the try line, so just grabbing his laces would have done enough..

    Reply
  • 10stonenumber10
    12:24 PM 29/03/2015

    Sexton half commits to protect himself, goes high, and gets boshed. I'm sure most 10s (bar Wilko) have some sort of gentleman's agreement in place. Carter clearly has when it comes to receiving any rough stuff! Even 5 years ago it wasn't such a problem. Freak of Nature players were fewer and further between. On your day, you can smash anybody. You can't smash the laws of physics though. Rugby is one step down from a "Combat Sport". Combat Sports are split by weight category, you are always competing within 5 or 6 kilos of your own weight. After age grade, I don't think I stepped out on the field with less than a 20kg weight disadvantage to the opposition's lightest player, let alone my opposite man. On a good day It would only be 40-50kg. Whoever told you Students are starving are talking out their arse. I think the biggest weight difference was damn near 90kg. To put that into perspective, to make any sort of impact in the contact, it would need to be attacked at a much higher speed and try to carry as much momentum as physically possible, just to equal an "average" hit from an "average" sized player. He is 26, he hasn't been big for 26 years, if you spend your entire player development playing a certain way, it is ingrained into you. If every hit needs to be at 130% just to get the job done, you make bad habits. Fair play to him, he goes for it, sometimes gets it wrong, but it needs to be sorted out. There's a reason you don't take a hatchback Banger Racing.

    Reply
  • bloblabli
    5:54 PM 28/03/2015

    this one seems like a pretty good tackle, low, effective, good shoulder, head in the right place. He chopped him off and won the turnover.

    Reply
  • vladimir
    12:37 PM 28/03/2015

    Another problem might that, when faced with this kind of big lad, he aims at their knees to bring them down, not their hips or their ankles, again throwing his back into their to obstruct the way, like he did against O'Brien (with his favorite shoulder again)) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1FoX0minglc

    Reply
  • drg
    11:19 AM 28/03/2015

    I wouldn't worry about criticising his technique, I will wholeheartedly admit that 1/2p could probably play back row better than I ever can/could (and bear in mind he's a 15).. but the last paragraph by RD sums it up pretty well. 1/2p is 26, I'd rather not hear about him retiring from injury ever, but especially not this year or near future.

    Reply
  • drg
    11:15 AM 28/03/2015

    Jumping is indeed illegal, it looks like a jump, but I'd like to see some other angles. I think if 1/2p had sort of grabbed hold of his leg around arse level and slid down he'd have brought the big guy down - not instantly, but in time...

    Reply
  • 10stonenumber10
    7:14 AM 28/03/2015

    I've said it before. I have lost count of how many times we see Halfpenny flat out on the floor with concussion/neck injury concern. He receives treatment at least every other game. Put in the NFL style hits when you're wearing a helmet and pads. Not with what is essentially a sponge beanie, and wafer thin shoulder pads... they do nothing for impact, just stop studs tearing you up at the bottom of a ruck.

    Reply
  • spainandy
    8:21 PM 27/03/2015

    I would like to comment on the tackle situation prior to Halfpenny's ; Vunisa jumps Lydiate's attempted chop tackle. 1) I think this is illegal 2) It's quite a clever way to nullify this ankle tackling tactic!?

    Reply
  • drg
    6:18 PM 27/03/2015

    I think criticising his technique is fair enough as it is clearly not a one off. I personally defended his awful technique against Burrell in the linked video as I felt that he put his body in the way to force Burrell round the outside; and subsequently into touch. I can see what marty is getting at, but I think in this situation there was no specific line that the Italian had to be tackle short of, or forced out of, so the key here would probably be trying to grab hold of the guys ankles and watch him fall like a log... (he says to the professional rugby player..) I think Marty, there is a line between just simply tackling a player and putting in a big hit, and personally I feel that line is a long way away if it involves sticking your head on the wrong side. I think if you need to put your head in front of the player then you need to make sure you're smashing them towards 'their corner flag'... whereas 1/2p was only going to ever be pushing him towards the touch line direction... in which case he's already in the wrong position to put in a 'big hit'... ...also to be fair, that Italian is pretty bloody big!

    Reply
  • marty
    5:53 PM 27/03/2015

    When I first was taught how to tackle (by a professional coach, yes we have some in Canada), I was told to tackle with the shoulder opposite to where my head would be free of getting in the way of a knee, shoulder, forearm, etc... and I kept thinking : well, it sure doesn't make a powerful tackle, but it will bring the guy down. And I started watching senior players and pros and they would ALWAYS tackle head in and make big hits! Its kind of ''against nature'' not to tackle head in, because you feel your hit will be just so much more effective, but clearly, it is way more dangerous.

    Reply
  • guy
    5:03 PM 27/03/2015

    As Gareth Thomas says: he seems to be favouring one shoulder over the other. What seems strange to me is that in this instance he seems to prefer to tackle with the shoulder he dislocated last year. Well anyway..I am not going to critisize his sommitment or his technique since he outscores me big time on both. I just really really hope his injuries will not get the better of him. By the way: I wonder how Toulon owner Mourad Bodjellal will feel about this ;-)

    Reply
  • vladimir
    3:59 PM 27/03/2015

    In a way, as a small guy too, I understand his stubborness. When you get in front of a big tank launched at full speed in an open field, it is easy to not trust your raw strenght to stop it. The first instinct is to blockade its paths with the whole body, and especially your back, to get under the player, obstruct and lift it. Poor technique still.

    Reply


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