Water breaks will be a feature of Gallagher Premiership games when the season restarts on Friday. The one-minute stoppages midway through each half will replicate Premier League matches during the reconvened football season in June and July.

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Harlequins and Sale Sharks launch the Premiership resumption on Friday following the shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, with nine rounds of regular-season games left followed by play-offs and the final in October.

Aside from water breaks, Premiership officials will also adopt strict interpretations at the key breakdown area, mirroring referees who have taken charge of matches this summer in New Zealand’s Super Rugby Aotearoa tournament, with an emphasis on making the breakdown safer.

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A detailed breakdown law application guideline was produced by World Rugby earlier this year, involving input from the likes of former Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt and top international referees Wayne Barnes and Jaco Peyper. The aim is to make one of rugby’s most difficult areas simpler to play, coach and officiate.

It focuses on key areas such as tacklers releasing the ball-carrier and rolling away immediately in the direction of the touchline, an onus on ball-carriers presenting or releasing the ball more quickly, and legal entries to the breakdown.

Games in New Zealand saw an abundance of penalties being awarded during early matches, but the overall product has seen faster, attacking possession and created a fairer contest between attack and defence. Premiership officials will also be using their assistant referees to help them during games with the breakdown area.

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Meetings have been held with Premiership directors of rugby and referees’ chiefs on the breakdown, in addition to input from players.

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