NRL Expert @JennaBrooks
Coronavirus in sport: Rugby league considers rule changes for rest of 2020 season
Last Updated: 11/06/20 7:24am
It is likely we will see several changes to the way rugby league is played in this country for at least the rest of 2020.
They included the scrapping of scrums, the addition of the 'six again' rule, plus discarding the removal of an interchange for late changes to a 21-player match-day squad for the remainder of the season.
On Wednesday, the RFL's Laws Committee agreed to recommend a number of changes to all levels of the game in the Northern Hemisphere in a bid to make it safer for all involved, while the coronavirus pandemic continues to cause havoc around the world.
Rugby league's proposed temporary rule changes
- Adopting the NRL's 'six again' rule
- The removal of scrums
- Restrictions on the legal point of contact for a third defender in an upright tackle
- Discarding the removal of an interchange for late changes to 21-man squads
I am told that at Wednesday's meeting Super League were in full support of measures which helped the current public health situation, which were led by advice from medical experts and Public Health England.
Clubs will have until early July, before the next RFL board meeting to consider the recommendations.
"These are major recommendations, but these are unprecedented times, presenting the game with unique challenges," RFL chief executive and chair of the Laws Committee Ralph Rimmer said.
"The Committee recognised the importance of consulting widely within the game before the recommendations are put to the RFL Board, and that process has already started.
These are major recommendations, but these are unprecedented times, presenting the game with unique challenges.
"But we believe rugby league is well-served by its agility, in terms of being able to consider and implement such significant changes.
"The recommendation to adopt a number of the rule changes that have been introduced in the NRL in 2020 will also assist in the important process of aligning the rules across both hemispheres."
One of the biggest changes would be the removal of scrums entirely.
Medical experts on the committee presented strong evidence showing scrapping scrums would considerably reduce the virus spreading between players.
So why are there still scrums in the NRL?
The answer is the public health situation is extremely different in Australia, exemplified by the fact ARLC chairman Peter V'landys is aiming to allow full crowds to attend games by the beginning of August.
You might ask: what about rugby union?
The 15-man code have already been discussing mitigating the contact around their scrums, for example, preventing resets. However, their position remains subject to approval from Public Health England and are proposing a different testing regime of twice weekly.
Since the restart of the NRL we have seen the new six again rule have its desired effect on the game, with NRL head of football Graham Annesley calling it a success.
The new ruling, which sees referees award another six tackles instead of a penalty for ruck infringements, has resulted in a much faster, free flowing, more enjoyable game to watch.
The innovation not only makes for a faster game, but a safer one too. When increasing the speed of play-the-balls, naturally you are reducing the number of players in each tackle and the amount of time spent in close contact.
Three more NRL rule changes introduced earlier this year are also being considered for the 2020 restart.
When a team kicks out on the full, play will be restarted by a play-the-ball rather than a scrum.
The restart following a mutual infringement - such as the ball hitting the referee or a trainer - will be a play-the-ball rather than a scrum.
Restrictions on the legal point of contact for a third defender in an upright tackle, which must now be above the knee.
Once the season does resume, there is a strong possibility of midweek games, while the new rule punishing teams for making late changes to their 21-player squad by the removal of an interchange will be suspended for the rest of 2020.
So, a lot for clubs to consider ahead of possible implementation at next month's RFL board meeting.