NRL announces seven changes in revamp for 2020 season

Revamped scrums, a challenge system and an overhaul of the controversial play that marred the grand final are among of host of changes to how rugby league will be played next year.

The NRL has introduced a raft of changes including a revamp of where scrums will take place giving teams an option of spots where they want to feed the ball and a challenge system.

The NRL announced seven changes to the way the game will be played next year.

They include:

— The introduction of a 20/40 rule in addition to the existing 40/20 rule.

— The team with the loose head and feed will be allowed to nominate the preferred position to pack a scrum from either the nearest 10 metre line, the 20 metre line or in line with the black dot on the crossbar. Teams will be given five seconds to inform the referee. The default position will be set on the regular 20-metre line.

— A trial conducted in second tier competitions requiring teams to pack six players in the scrum even when down to 12 on the field. As it stands they are able to pack with five. It will be assessed at the end of 2020 with the potential of an introduction in the NRL in 2021.

— The referee will be required to replay the previous play the ball in the event of play being irregularly affected such as the Roosters trainer being hit by the ball after a charge down in the grand final.

— The act of tackling a player in mid-air from either the kicking or non-kicking team will be banned.

— A challenge system for decisions in general play. The NRL is finalising how it will work.

— Reduction of the time trainers spend on the field.

The 20/40 rule was trialled in Queensland Cup in 2019 but used successfully just once.

The potential advantage is teams have to defend the play and could drop wingers back out of the defensive line, while adding another attacking option for teams looking to get out of their own end.

Luke Keary gets a kick away for the Roosters. Picture: AAP
Luke Keary gets a kick away for the Roosters.

Predictability in scrums has also been targeted with teams able to nominate the lateral position of the scrum within about five seconds before a default scrum is set 20 metres from touch.

The idea is to add a tactical element to what is usually a predictable outcome.

The ARLC also endorsed a ‘challenge’ system for teams where they will be given one opportunity to challenge an on-field decision, which will be retained if they are correct.

It could not apply to forward passes.

The NRL will work through the operational details on how the challenge would be applied and a report will be put to the commission in February to introduce the rule in 2020.

Additionally, restrictions on trainers will be introduced to spend less time on the field. Limitations will be finalised at the next meeting. Second-tier competitions will also trial packing six players into a scrum when only 12 players are on the field instead of five.

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