British academics argue for scrums to be removed from schools rugby

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Former Wallaby Michael O’Connor packs a scrum with Pembroke School rugby players.

Tackling and the scrum should be removed from schools rugby, academics have advised in a leading medical journal.

Allyson Pollock and Graham Kirkwood from the Institute of Health at Newcastle University argue that most injuries in youth rugby occur due to the collision elements of the game.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, they said that ministers should “put the interests of the child before those of corporate professional rugby unions.”

Removing collision from schools rugby is likely to “reduce and mitigate the risk of injury” in pupils, they said.

They argue that a history of concussion is associated with the “lowering of a person’s life chances” across a number of measures including low educational achievement and premature death.

Citing previous research into sports injuries in youngsters, the pair argue that rugby, along with ice hockey and American football, have the highest concussion rates.

The calls come against a backdrop of rising concerns over player welfare at the elite level with England internationals Billy Vunipola, Joe Marler and Ben Youngs declaring that players could strike if the demands of the modern game become too great.