21 Jan 2020

On-field changes for 2020

Know the rule changes ahead of the 2020 Betfred Super League season

The RFL's Laws Committee has approved a subtle change in the wording surrounding the policing of play-the-balls in the 2020 season which it is hoped will lead to a significant on-field improvement in that area of the game.

The Laws Committee - which includes representatives of players and coaches, and from all three professional competitions, as well as match officials, the media, sports medicine and other administrators – held its regular pre-season meeting earlier this month.

The RFL’s Match Officials Department had been asked to submit recommendations to the Laws Committee regarding the play-the-ball, following discussions through the 2019 season.

The proposal, which was unanimously accepted, stresses the responsibility of the tackled player “to maintain balance and control and make a genuine attempt to make contact on the ball with the foot”.

It is also the tackled player’s responsibility to place the ball on the ground at their feet and not on a defender – and a failure to fulfil any of those requirements (balance, control, placing the ball on the ground and making a genuine attempt to play it with the foot) will be ruled a lost ball (not a penalty), leading to a scrum.

The Laws Committee believe a scrum is a more appropriate punishment for this error than a penalty.

The responsibility of defenders is also detailed, in a number of ways, including as follows:

“No tackler should make an adjustment on the tackle or leave hands or body in the play-the-ball area after the tackle is complete. Referees should act on any interference once the tackle has been called”;

“Tacklers who ‘clamp’ the ball and keep their hands/arm on the ball when the ball carrier is standing up should be penalised”.

In turn the above has been ratified by the RFL Board.

Other significant changes which have been approved by the Laws Committee for 2020 are:

Punches to the head/striking - After deliberation by the Laws Committee, striking (defined as contact being made to the head which is deemed forceful by the Match Officials) will be included as an automatic sin bin in the updated sin bin section of the Match Officials’ Policy.

Shot Clock – As previously announced, teams will now have only 30 seconds to restart the match at a scrum, and 25 seconds for a drop-out.

Squad Declaration – As announced in December, teams will now be required to name a 21-player squad at noon two days before each fixture (rather than a 19-player squad, as previously); and if they include any players from outside that 21 in their matchday 17, they will lose one of the eight interchanges permitted in each match.

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