World Rugby has announced sweeping change in the form of 10 optional law variations to the community game with the hope of improving safety and participation challenges
From next January, all national unions will have the ability to make significant changes to the amateur game.
World Rugby is also recommending no scrum resets in the community game. If a scrum is not successful, the game instead restarts with a free kick to the attacking team.
Optional changes include the number of players on each team, the duration, field size, replacements, tackle height, weight restrictions, kicking and set piece modifications
Teams may agree not to contest or lift in lineouts. When uncontested, the ball must be passed to the halfback.
The ‘Game On’ principles consist of 10 optional law changes – with unions free to pick and choose from them based on the context and suitability. The changes that will be allowed under the new laws include:
- reducing teams from 15-a-side to as few as 10-a-side, providing both teams have an equal number of players and have agreed to the changes beforehand
- reducing the length of the game from 80 minutes to as short as 40 minutes – with the ability to split matches into quarters or thirds
- reducing scrums to a minimum of five players for 10-a-side games
- allowing teams to agree not to contest or lift in lineouts
- allowing teams to agree that penalties and free-kicks can only be kicked to touch from inside a team’s half, or that all conversions are from in front of the posts
- introducing weight-based banding for matches in age-grade rugby and lower tackle-height
- allowing matches to be played on surfaces including sand, clay or snow – with 10-a-side matches to be played on half a pitch;
- permitting the use of smaller balls in certain matches or competitions
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “The community game is the heart and soul of our sport, it is the foundation upon which our house is built and today represents a landmark for rugby around the globe with the introduction of optional community law variations for our national member unions.
“We are constantly listening to, and engaging with the global rugby family at all levels and I am delighted that today’s tangible outcomes were borne out of an initial survey that received more than 1,800 respondents from around the world and builds upon existing models in England, New Zealand and Wales.
“A major benefit of the global nature of the project will be the ability for sharing of best practice across Unions and having one set of guidance that players can recognise no matter where they play in the world.
“The law amendments announced today are a key element of our long term objective to make the game more accessible, more sustainable, safer and available to all across the globe. The passion, commitment and enjoyment that is seen on rugby pitches up and down countries around the globe is what drives us on with the determination to continue to evolve and improve the game we love for all.”
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WRU Chairman Butcher added: “There can be little doubt that all members of our global rugby family will be delighted to take full advantage of the opportunities so provided by the introduction of the new law variations.
“Community rugby lies at the heart of our strategy moving forward; every single international rugby player, male or female, will have began their journey to the top by being introduced to the game at grassroots level, and the variations are designed to ensure they may be involved more often and with more enjoyment from the outset.
“Pleasingly, all variations are optional, and the mix and match approach can be adapted accordingly.”