RUGBY league’s proposal to get rid of scrums for the rest of the year has left people stunned.
The Rugby Football League’s laws committee has recommended that packing down be taken out of the 13-a-side code on public health grounds as it looks to restart after the Covid-19 shutdown.
NRL changes like the ‘six again’ rule, which sees the tackle count simply reset for certain infringements rather than a penalty blown, look set to come in over here.
But bosses have gone a step further by proposing scrums be taken out of matches when they restart, with August the most likely date.
Hull KR and England’s Dr Gemma Phillips – the RFL’s Covid officer – led the call at Wednesday’s meeting, which was attended by Wakefield boss Chris Chester and players’ union chief Garreth Carvell.
And if Public Health England say it would help prevent the virus’ spread, scrums are set to be removed.
Sky commentator Barrie McDermott summed up the reaction of many in the game, however, with one word: “Wow.”
He added: “It’s an essential part of our game. It’s designed to reduce the number of players and increase space for a short time.
“I’d hate to see us get to a point when we get rid of the big men and have 17 players all of the same height and weight.”
Salford boss Ian Watson also believes scrums can be kept, especially if all players are tested.
He said: “From what we’re told, it’s to limit the time in contact situation but our scrums are very short, unlike rugby union where there in the scrum/ruck for a while.
“If all the testing is done I don’t see why we can’t have scrums. It will look a different game and I’ll bet rugby union has scrums.”
Medics, however, came to the conclusion after hearing how if a one-on-one tackle is one close contact, a scrum is 132 based on the 12 players in the packs.
In Super League, there has been an average of 12 scrums per game and if someone tests positive for coronavirus after a game they played in, everyone in scrums would have to self-isolate.
It is felt removing scrums from matches may change that requirement.
An RFL statement said: “The committee has recommended to clubs that they consider the removal of scrums from all fixtures for the rest of 2020, pending further clarification from Public Health England.
“Medical experts on the committee presented strong evidence showing this would considerably reduce the threat of potential exposure to and transmission of Covid-19 between players during matches – and therefore reduce the risk of major disruption to any rearranged fixture list because of positive tests.”
The ’six again’ rule, which has been a popular addition, has seen NRL matches speed up and even healthier.
As the three tiers of rugby league here discuss whether to bring it in, the RFL added: “This was seen as having health benefits in terms of increasing the speed of play-the-balls, therefore reducing the number of players in each tackle and the amount of time spent in close contact.”
Other changes set to be formally brought in early next month include a play-the-ball restart rather than a scrum if a team kicks the ball out on the full or if the ball hits a referee or trainer.
RFL chief executive Ralph Rimmer said: “These are major recommendations, but these are unprecedented times, presenting the game with unique challenges.
“The committee recognised the importance of consulting widely within the game before the recommendations are put to the RFL Board, and that process has already started.
“But we believe rugby league is well-served by its agility, in terms of being able to consider and implement such significant changes.
“The recommendation to adopt a number of the rule changes that have been introduced in the NRL in 2020 will also assist in the important process of aligning the rules across both hemispheres.”
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