Game Innovations FAQ's

Why is NZR making changes to the community game?

We are focused on creating a game that players, coaches and referees love to play. Feedback from community rugby participants has suggested that changes should be made to the tackle and breakdown, as well as a focus on player safety. The community rugby innovations are supported by the 26 Provincial Unions and aim to improve player safety, flow of the game, and keep the ball in play more.

Improving the participant’s experience is key to ensuring that rugby remains a safe, relevant, and viable offering for the communities that play, coach, manage, referee, and support the game - and is a vital part of NZR's Participation Framework.

How were the game innovations developed?

The community rugby game innovations were developed through a series of successful trials in Provincial Union competitions throughout the 2022 season. The game innovations are supported by New Zealand’s 26 Provincial Unions.

When will the game innovations be reviewed?

The game innovations were reviewed at the conclusion of the 2024 and 2025 season. The review took into consideration game footage, key metrics, and participant feedback.

How does NZR know if the game innovations are working?

We are focused on making sure that decisions around player safety are based on research and evidence. To evaluate the game innovations, surveys were sent to players, referees and coaches, and matches were filmed and analysed. 

What grades will be playing under the new tackle height trial?

All community rugby grades will play under the tackle height trial in 2024 and 2025. These grades including senior premier club and school First XV grades.

Why is NZR reducing the tackle height even further?

Community rugby participants have told us that they want to see improvements made to the tackle and at breakdown. Feedback from community players, coaches and referees in the 2023 season found that 89% understood the reason for the tackle below the sternum law, 72% agreed the lower height was safer for the ball carrier and 61% thought lower tackle height was safer for the first tackler. 

The majority of first tackles in the 2023 season were below the sternum, with 90% in 1st XV, 78% in senior men's and 72% in senior women's.

How can players know where the sternum area is when tackling?

Defenders should target the belly area of the ball carrier when making a tackle, as this area of the body is below the sternum. The second tackler can legally tackle below the shoulders in accordance with current rugby law.

When can we see game innovations for the breakdown area?

We will be looking at trials on the breakdown area in the 2024 season.

How can I provide feedback on the community rugby game innovations?

If you have any feedback, please send us an email at