Rugby league’s laws committee met this week to consider what rule changes might be necessary for the professional game to resume action while restrictions are in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Super League season looks set to get underway again in August, but fans could see a different sort of game on their TV screens when it does.
Among the recommendations for rule changes that was discussed was for scrums to be removed from the game entirely.
While scrums are usually uncontested in the 13-man code, the option is always there for a team to apply some shove to the situation if they want.
Removing the scrum from the game could remove 1500 instances of close contact from the game.
While a one-on-one tackle constitutes one incidence of close contact for players, a scrum reportedly results in 132.
As there is an average of 12 scrums in a Super League match, the arguments for eliminating them from the game are strong right now.
The other significant recommendation is the adoption of the rule where the tackle count reverst to six rather than a penalty being awarded for interference in the tackle.
The rule has recently been adopted in the NRL, and it is understood to be seriously considered by the authorities in Britain too.
“These are major recommendations but these are unprecedented times, presenting the game with unique challenges,” the RFL’s chief executive, Ralph Rimmer, said.
“We believe rugby league is well-served by its agility, in terms of being able to consider and implement such significant changes.”
The implementation of the ‘six again’ rule for interference in the tackle has certainly added even more speed to games since its recent introduction in the NRL.
Some Super League coaches have expressed concern that the changes may alter the game significantly.
Agar concerned about rule changes
Leeds Rhinos coach Richard Agar has warned that the way the game is played could be radically different if matches resume under the new rules.
“I would urge caution – I’d like to see more evidence and data first,” Agar told the Daily Mirror.
“If you bring in the six again law and take scrums out, on the back of having six months off and potentially playing midweek games, it’s going to have a massive impact on the way the game looks.
“We’d have to be ready for the game not looking anything like we know it and that’s very dangerous.”
The number of interchanges could also be increased, as clubs are likely to face crowded fixture lists with midweek games likely to take place.
There are currently eight interchanges allowed. A crowded fixture list would place extra burdens on players, however, and coaches are keen for the number to be increased.
Discussions have also taken place regarding players being tested for Covid-19 on a weekly basis, probably on the Wednesday before weekend fixtures.
The laws committee will now consult with Public Health England. The Rugby Football League’s board will then make the final decision on whether to implement the recommended rule changes.