World Rugby’s ten optional law trials won’t be implemented in England or Wales to help the sport return to playing in the Covid-19 era. Super Rugby in New Zealand will restart on June 13 with the same laws it had when it was suspended in March. And the Gallagher Premiership have now suggested it will do likewise if it does get the go-ahead to restart its stalled 2019/20 campaign.
The general feeling is that it would be unwieldy to restart the tournament with an altered set of laws different from what had been in use in the first part of the campaign, particularly the tweaks regarding the scrum and maul.
A Premiership Rugby spokesperson said in the Telegraph: “We are undertaking a review of all aspects of the game to ensure the safe return of Gallagher Premiership Rugby, but don’t anticipate any law changes.”
Premiership Rugby suffered a setback last week in its efforts to have its clubs return to training, but with lockdown measures in England set to move into a new phase of lifting restrictions, there is hope that a full set of guidelines will be established by the time the clubs next meet late next week.
World Rugby’s law review group apparently conducted an analysis of 60 matches before deciding on its ten optional law change recommendations aimed at reducing Covid-19 transmission risk.
However, amid criticism that they alter the spirit and the look of rugby as it has been known, they have so far not been warmly received.
Aside from the Premiership stating that their tournament will not adopt any of the proposed law changes, the RFU and the WRU have also hinted they too would be giving the recommendations a wide berth as they formulate plans for the safe return of grassroots rugby for the 2020/21 season.
“The RFU has its own review underway looking at the options for a return to training and return to play rugby for clubs in England,” said an RFU spokesperson. “When government advice on social distancing measures are eased, specific RFU guidance will be announced and provided to clubs.”
The WRU agreed, their chairman Gareth Davies stating in a BBC interview: “I’m not a fan. I think it eats away at the integrity of the game. “There are a couple of positives there. Looking at the scrum, it would be great if we could put something in place long-term… (but) at the moment, our union has no firm plans to implement them.”
“We’re at a pivotal point… football can be played with the highest level of beauty at an unbelievable standard, but you can also play it at 60 having a kick around. You can't do that with rugby"
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) May 27, 2020
World Rugby had always intended that these laws changes were optional and were up to individual unions to adopt or ignore. “It’s not going to be forced upon people,” said chief medical officer Martin Raftery in a midweek interview.
“It’s just going to say, ‘Here’s the research we found. If you think you want to trial it, by all means you can trial it’. That doesn’t mean a country who has a low risk can’t adopt it and trial it as well. That’s up to the actual competitions to make that decision.”
WORLD RUGBY’S 10 OPTIONAL LAW CHANGES
1. Remove reset scrum when no infringement occurs;
2. Hookers must use a ‘break foot’ to aid scrum stability;
3. No scrum option for a penalty or free-kick;
4. Goal-line drop-out when an attacker is held up in-goal or knock on in-goal.
5. Reinforce high tackle sanction framework – the introduction of an orange card for red card high tackle offence;
6. Remove choke tackle and reward defensive team.
7. Ruck ‘use it’ duration time reduced from five to three seconds;
8. No scrum for failure to ‘use it’ at scrum, ruck or maul.
9. No one can join a maul if not in it from the start;
10. Only one forward movement at a maul.
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