‘Education key to rugby safety’

Calls have been made for a ban on tackling in school rugby matches. (Archive pic)
Calls have been made for a ban on tackling in school rugby matches. (Archive pic)

A Mallusk man who suffered a serious injury while playing rugby at school has voiced his concerns over a proposed ban on tackling in schools rugby.

Andrew Kelly broke two vertebrae while playing for Ballyclare High School, after a scrum he was involved in collapsed.

The incident, which occurred 11 years ago, left Andrew in a serious condition in hospital, where he remained for six months. There were fears at the time that the young man would be left paralysed, but after a long recovery, Andrew is now leading a normal life.

Speaking to the Times, he said: “Injuries are part and parcel of all sports, not just physical contact sports like rugby. Golfers get knee injuries, cricketers get ankle injuries and tennis players get back injuries. These are non contact sports and show that injuries can occur in any sport. It is unfortunately pot luck, with some people being able to enjoy a very successful sporting career with minimal injuries, while some people have really bad luck with constant injuries.”

Last week, more than 70 doctors and health experts, wrote an open letter to elected representatives across the UK and Ireland, calling on a ban on tackling in school rugby games.

Commenting on the issue, Andrew said: “I can see where they are coming from when they are trying to get it banned, but I think there’s enough education here from Ulster Rugby and the coaches in schools, who are teaching pupils how to tackle and play the game safely. I personally don’t think you can ban it because it would not just be banned in schools, but also in rugby clubs as well. Rugby is a physical game and tackling is a key part of it.”