A spear tackle is an illegal tackle in rugby union, rugby league and Australian rules football in which a player lifts another player into the air and drops them so that they land on their back, head or neck. Spear tackles have caused serious injury including spinal damage, dislocations, broken bones in the shoulder or neck, and death. Due to the dangers, players executing a spear tackle in these sports are punished severely.
The term "spear tackle" has been in use since at least 1995. World Rugby (previously called the 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, although particularly bad examples may be punished by sending the player off, reducing his team to one less player on the field. This term is used throughout the northern and southern hemispheres.
Australian rules football
- Grapple tackle - another controversial tackling technique
- RugbyRefs.com Tip Tackle Explained
- Perth boy charged over spear-tackle | SMH.com.au
- Yahoo! UK & Ireland Eurosport - Sport News | African Cup of Nations Archived 2006-01-12 at the Wayback Machine
- The Irish Times, Saturday 25 November 1995, page 17.
- IRB memorandum, Dangerous Tackles, 8 June 2009 Archived 28 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine