World Rugby, the international governing body for rugby union, has issued protocols that could be used to allow the playing of the sport to resume.
No rugby union has been played across the world since late March due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
The new protocols are intended to minimise the risk of infection for players by cutting down on face-to-face contact.
There are 10 new protocols in total, and they have been drawn up after consideration by World Rugby ‘s Law Review Group.
The Group analysed 60 matches. It is made up of players, coaches, medics and law specialists.
The protocols will not be compulsory across the world, given the different rates of infection and stages of the pandemic in different countries.
“We have extensively evaluated the perceived risk areas within the game,” said World Rugby boss Sir Bill Beaumont.
No scrum resets, no choke tackles
Among the new protocols are the following:
- Removing scrum resets
- Removing the option to take a scrum for a penalty, free kick or when the attacker is held up in goal
- Reduce face-to-face contact by tightening up high tackle rules. This could see an orange card introduced for potential red card offences. (The player would be removed from the field; his actions are then checked by the Television Match Official; if it is a serious offence, he receives a red card; if less serious, he stays off for 15 minutes
- Removal of the choke tackle. Referees will call ‘tackle’ rather than ‘maul’ when it occurs
- Free kick if a team fails to use the ball at a ruck
- The ‘use it’ time at rucks cut from five to three seconds
- Restrictions on mauls and the number of players who can join a maul
World Rugby anticipates that the protocols will be used mainly by the amateur game, with the exception of the stipulation about the orange card, which is specific to the professional game.
They have anticipated that the new protocols will reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19 by reducing scrum contact exposure by 30%, ruck contact exposure by 25% and maul contact by 50%.
Hygiene measures will also need to be implemented by clubs. These include hand and face sanitisation before and after matches.
No celebrations and washed balls
The ball will also need to be washed before and after games. Players will be asked to refrain from group huddles and celebrations, and also to refrain from spitting and nose clearing.
Scrum training will need to be against a machine rather than other players. Training that increase the risk of transmission, such as scrimmaging and mauling, should not take place 48 hours before a game.
The Rugby Football Union, the game’s governing body in England, has stated that it will be issuing its own guidance to clubs. It currently has its own review underway.
“The RFU has its own review underway looking at the options for return to training and return to play rugby for clubs in England,” said an RFU spokesperson.
“When government advice on social distancing measures are lifted, specific RFU guidance will be announced and provided to clubs.”