A proposal from rugby league officials to end the scrum after the season resumes in August could eliminate more than 1,500 cases of close contact between players per game, giving the sport the best chance of finishing its national schedule as planned.
The sports laws committee met on Wednesday with a number of rule changes discussed, including increasing the number of trades allowed, and a series of changes to align the Super League with the NRL, including the introduction of the “six again” rule, which allows attacking teams to restart the tackle account following a ruck infraction.
However, this potentially eliminates scrums, which is most important. Medical experts who were present at the committee showed evidence suggesting that the removal of the melee “would significantly reduce” the threat of exposure and transmission of Covid-19, the hearing being informed that if an individual tackle constitutes an occurrence of contact narrow, a single melee represents 132 instances.
With an average of 12 scrums per game in the Super League this season, this translates into over 1,500 close contact opportunities in every game. The Law Committee will seek clarification from Public Health England before a judgment is rendered by the Rugby Football League’s board of directors.
Discussions on player tests have also started, with initial protocols suggesting that weekly tests should take place on a Wednesday before a weekend game. If the scrums persisted, a player who had played and then turned out to be positive would likely require quarantine of all players who came into contact with him for a fortnight, which leaves doubts about the end of the season.
Since mid-week meetings are considered inevitable at the end of the season, further discussions are also planned on increasing the number of exchanges. Clubs are allowed eight per game, but there is a growing appetite among sports coaches to increase this number to reduce the demand for players who may be asked to play three times a week.
“These are major recommendations, but these are unprecedented times, presenting the game with unique challenges,” said RFL CEO Ralph Rimmer. “We think the Rugby League is well served by its agility, in terms of being able to envision and implement such significant changes. “
The RFL aims to put the sport in as strong a position as possible to return safely and will even take into account the recommendations surrounding the testing celebrations and the way players gather behind the poles when the tries are scored.