What to look out for – New Rules for 2021

Inevitably in the modern era there will be a host of new rules incorporated into the Laws of the Game when Super League rolls into action this Friday night at Headingley.

And in fact the rule amendments were implemented at the weekend in the first round matches in this season’s Challenge Cup.

The emergency law introduced for the restart of the 2020 season last July – removing scrums and replacing them with a handover of possession – will be retained, but with the shot clock application removed.

But the RFL has said that the situation will be kept under review, with the hope that the emergency law will be removed and that scrums will return before the end of the 2021 season, at least at Betfred Super League level, given the need to prepare players for the World Cup in the autumn, given that Rugby League’s International Laws still include scrums.

Several other law changes for 2021 have been recommended and approved, which will be applied at all levels of the game.

These changes include:

1 Flexibility for the attacking team on the lateral positioning of scrums, allowing them to set scrums ten or twenty metres from touch, or in the centre of the field;

2 A reward for 20/40 kicks, giving the kicker’s side a tap restart where the ball goes into touch;

3 A handover of possession for an incorrect play-the-ball;

4 The removal of scrums when the ball goes into touch, with the game instead having a tap restart.

The Laws Committee rejected, however, two further law changes that have been introduced by the NRL for 2021- extending the ‘Six Again’ Law that was introduced in 2020 for ruck offences, to include 10-metre offside infringements, and awarding two points for field-goals kicked from outside the 40 metre line.

“Thanks are due to the members of the RFL’s Laws Committee, which comprises a range of experts from all sections of the game, and also to Graham Annesley, who attended the meeting and explained the background to the law changes introduced by the NRL in 2020 and 2021,” explained Dave Rotheram, the RFL’s Chief On-Field Officer.

“The RFL have been keen to achieve as much consistency as possible between the laws applied in both hemispheres, both in domestic competitions and through the International Laws.

“A greater degree of harmonisation was achieved through the law changes introduced for the resumption of the 2020 season – notably the adoption of ‘Six Again’ – and that process will continue with the law changes introduced for 2021.

“However we remain unconvinced by the arguments for introducing a two-point drop-goal, believing this to be a fundamental change in the laws of the game which could have unintended consequences in discouraging teams from seeking to score tries, especially late in each half.

“The Laws Committee were also not persuaded of the merits of extending Six Again to cover 10-metre offside infringements.

“Regarding scrums, medical and scientific evidence was the key, as when the initial decision was made to suspend them for the restart of the 2020 season. With Covid-19 remaining prevalent in society, their reintroduction could present additional risk to the health of the players, and would significantly increase the number of close contacts in a match, which could lead to more postponements.

“Therefore the decision was made to maintain the position as at the end of 2020 for the start of the 2021 season. However the Laws Committee agreed that the public health situation should be kept under constant review, and that scrums should be reintroduced as soon as possible – with the expectation that scrums will remain in the International Laws and therefore feature in the Rugby League World Cup in the autumn.

“The Committee agreed that scrums could be reintroduced to certain parts of the game and not others, again depending on the public health situation.”

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