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Reducing scrums and scrapping choke tackle - World Rugby law trials


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Reducing the amount of scrums in a game is one part of World Rugby's approval of ten law trials to help reduce the risk of coronavirus transmission.

Other changes to the laws include removing the choke tackle, no scrum resets, goal-line drop outs and an orange card.

World Rugby says any law changes will have to be trialled first in line with its return to play guidance but unions are allowed to pick and choose or opt not to use them if they wish.

World Rugby were informed by World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance and the chairman of World Rugby, Bill Beaumont, said extensive research has been conducted before they formulated the new laws.

"World Rugby is committed to evidence-based injury and infection preventative measures and we are fortunate to have such strong, forward-thinking and effective medical and research structures that inform our approach," said Beaumont.

"The health and wellbeing of the rugby family is paramount. We have extensively evaluated the perceived risk areas within the game.

"This has enabled an evidence-based assessment of risk areas and playing positions, which led us to develop temporary law amendments, complementing the extensive return-to-play guidance we published earlier this month.

"Unions can apply to implement one or more of these amendments on a domestic basis according to the respective government directives relating to COVID-19."

Among the law trials;

  • Removing scrum resets.
  • Taking away the option of a scrum for a penalty, a free-kick, or when an attacker is held-up in-goal.
  • Reinforcing high tackle guidelines to reduce face-to-face contact and the introduction of an "orange card" for potential red-card offences.
  • The player is removed with the offence checked by the Television Match Official. If deemed a red card offence, the player doesn't return. If not, they return after 15 minutes.
  • Removing the choke tackle, with referees calling a "tackle" rather than a "maul".
  • Awarding a free-kick rather than a scrum for when a team fails to "use it" at a scrum, ruck, or maul.
  • Speeding up rucks by cutting the "use it" time from 5 seconds to 3 seconds.
  • Restricting the number of players who can join a maul and the time spent in the maul.

In its statement, World Rugby claims that the changes to the scrum laws could significantly reduce the risk of transmission among forward players: "Comprehensive game analysis enabled an evidence-based approach to developing the temporary trials that limit scrum contact and time, lower the tackle height and speed up ball distribution from rucks and from mauls.

"The trials provide limits to scrum options with no scrum resets, limits for players joining rucks and mauls, time to play the ball at the base of scrums and rucks reduced from five to three seconds and only one movement permitted for a maul.

"Such an approach could reduce contact exposure for tight five players by more than 30 per cent, reduce exposure at the ruck by up to 25 per cent and reduce maul exposure by at least 50 per cent."

The governing body has also recommended the following hygiene measures;

  • Mandatory hand and face sanitisation pre- and post-match
  • Regular ball sanitisation before, during and after matches
  • Single user water bottles/hydration
  • Changing of jerseys, shorts and headgear at half-time where possible
  • Prevention of huddles and celebrations involving contact
  • Prevention of spitting and nose clearance

Recommended training measures

  • Forwards units: high risk transmission activity such as an eight-person scrum should be undertaken against machine to limit exposure, packs should be trained separately
  • Scrum and maul practice should take place at the end of a training session, preferably a day before a ‘down day’ to allow 24-48 hours before collective training
  • High transmission risk training should be avoided within 48 hours of a game

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Bill Beaumont World Health Organisation World Rugby

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