More than 70 doctors and health experts have written an open letter urging schools to move to touch or non-contact rugby to avoid serious injuries, such as concussion and fractures.
The letter warns of the high risk of serious injury among under-18s during school rugby games, describing it as a "high-impact collision sport".
"The majority of all injuries occur during contact or collision, such as the tackle and the scrum," it says. "These injuries, which include fractures, ligamentous tears, dislocated shoulders, spinal injuries and head injuries, can have short-term, lifelong and life-ending consequences for children."
A government drive to boost participation in rugby in English schools by linking them with rugby clubs has also been criticised by the health experts, who point out that the UN convention on the rights of the child obliges governments to inform children about injury risks.
This move is the first stage of a campaign that will include a petition on the government website which, if it receives 100,000 signatures, will prompt the consideration of a debate by MPs on the issue.
Repeat concussions in children have been found to have a link to cognitive impairment, as well as an association with problems such as depression, memory loss and diminished verbal abilities.
Eric Anderson, a professor of sport, masculinities and sexualities at the University of Winchester, stressed that the signatories did not have a contention with rugby, but with the collisions that occur in the sport.
"School children should not be forced to collide with other children as part of the national curriculum for physical education," he said. "A more sensible approach is to play tag rugby."
Posted by Theo Foulds