Countdown continues to potentially pivotal law change trial

·4-min read
 Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

We’re just a month or so away from a first look at a couple of law changes that could start changing the face of rugby league forever.

The move of the kick-off from the half-way line to the 40 metre mark is perhaps not the most revolutionary of ideas, but it will certainly make the game look completely different than ever before.

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It is one of two law changes that will be trialled via the academy game in June and July – the other being the reduction of the tackle height.

MORE: Why the RFL has announced two law changes, including reducing tackle height

How people reacted to the news of law changes

When there is any change in rugby league, there is often a reaction. Here are some of the more considered assessments of the situation.

Forty20 live co-host Richard Shaw-Wright: “Don’t blame sports for trying to make things safer when they’re being threatened by legal action and spiralling insurance costs.”

Rugby League Live Editor, Matt Shaw: “I dislike the proposals as much as the next person but this is what happens when you’ve got a legal case and your insurance deal has been quadrupled. I personally believe it has already made massive improvements, but fear further changes could take away from what the sport is.”

York rugby league evangelist Gavin Wilson: “Those rugby league law changes are part of a three year research project at Leeds Beckett. They are evidence led rather than an overreaction, and IMO they’re not that drastic. I’m ok with trialling them.”

Bill Bates: “If you want to reduce the speed of the collisions revert back to the five metre rule at the play the ball. And encourage football and team moves rather than employing your forwards as battering rams.”

Michael Lockwood: “Whilst I applaud attempts to understand impacts on health due to heavy collisions, both of these seem silly. This is a full bodied contact sport. When I took to the field I accepted the risk that I may get injured because of tackles and general contact. Its unfortunate but it happens.”

Ben Challis: “It’s interesting to note that four years ago the RFU SCRAPPED it’s own, and what looks to me like a very similar trial into tackle height in union, because concussions actually went UP.”

Rich Ellis: “Lets just make the game touch and pass and kill it off altogether.”

What will happen?

Clearly the players and coaches directly involved in the trial, coupled with the scientific data gleaned from it, will have a significant influence on whether the changes become universal and permanent.

As hinted above, similar trials in rugby union have resulted in statistics that pointed a shift in the wrong direction, and as such the changes were abandoned.

While most of the attention will be around the tackle height change, the kick-off change will take some getting used to.

Games have been started and re-started from the half-way line forever – and it seems odd for that to change.

If moving the kick-off does turn out to be needed, then I’m not sure it makes much sense to have it on the 40 metre line. Maybe kick offs go altogether, and when a team concedes a try, they then start with the ball on their own 20 metre line with a seven-tackle set, ala a drop out.

Some have championed for the team that concedes points to receive the ball from a kick-off – while a change in the process would also stop the fear of scoring teams then conceding shortly after from a short kick-off. Teams sometime turn down points in the late stages of games, such as penalties, because they think the opposing team has a greater chance of retrieving the ball from a short kick-off than they do if they have to play out from their own end. It could help to encourage teams to be more inclined to score points towards the end of the match, rather than simply managing the game and keeping the play down one end.

What is for sure, is that we’re well and truly in a transitional era – which means at the end, the game may well be very unrecognisable from the one we started the century with.

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