A spear tackle is a tackle in rugby union, rugby league and Australian rules football in which a player lifts another player into the air and drops them such that they land on their back, head or neck. Spear tackles have caused serious injury including spinal damage, dislocations and broken bones in the shoulder or neck.
The International Rugby Board (IRB) has ruled that a dangerous tackle of this type, sometimes also called a 'tip tackle', should be punished with a straight red card. An IRB memorandum on dangerous tackles from 8 June 2009 states: "At a subsequent IRB High Performance Referee Seminar at Lensbury referees were advised that for these types of tackles they were to start at red card as a sanction and work backwards."
The IRB amended the law (Law 10.4(j)), in December 2010. In the previous version of the law, the tackled player's head or shoulders had to hit the ground first for a referee to penalise them. The revised law removes the possibility of a spearing tackle not being penalised if the tackled player breaks their fall with their arms.
The National Rugby League (NRL) competition in Australia awards a penalty for players being lifted beyond the horizontal, which is often termed a "dangerous throw". Generally these tackles are also put "on report", meaning that in the coming week the judiciary is forced to review the incident and pursue the matter further if deemed appropriate. This term is used throughout the northern and southern hemispheres.
Australian rules football
- Grapple tackle - another controversial tackling technique