Formed 2004 ... Herts 7s U14 Runners-up 2005 ... North Herts U14 team, Herts Youth Games 2005 runners-up (coached by Letchworth)... Herts Superteams U14 Runners-up 2005 ... Herts SuperTeams "Fairplay" winners 2006 ... Rochford 10s U17 Champions 2006 ... East Midlands 10s U17 Runners-up 2007 ... East Midlands 10s U17 "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... National 10s U17 5th place and "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... Herts 7s U17 Plate runners-up 2007 ... National 7s U17 Plate winners 2007 ... RFU "President's XV" Award winners 2007 ... Herts Superteams winners 2007 ... Midlands 10s U18 Runners-up 2008 ... National 10s U18 4th place 2008 ... North Herts U11 team, Herts Youth Games 2008 runners-up (coached by Letchworth girls) ... London and SE 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2008 ... Herts 7s U18s runners-up 2008 ... National 7s U18s quarter-finalists 2008 ... Gloucester City 10s U18 Bowl runner-up (6th) 2009 ... Worthing 10s U18 Plate runner-up 2009 ... National 7s U18 Plate winners 2009... Worthing 10s U15 Plate winners 2010... Worthing 10s U18 Shield winners 2010... Herts 7s U15 and U18 Bowl runners-up 2010... National 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2010...

Friday, August 28, 2009

The new "man off" rule - will it apply to your games?

After all the fuss and fanfare last season about the ELVs is good to know that pretty much all of the most controversial ones failed to get through and so this season the laws will be pretty much unchanged. However, there is one law change that has been made - a change that was not included within the ELVs - which may have an effect on your rugby.

The change concerns Regulation 3.4(c) which concerns the scrum. It is a rule that applies to quite a lot of the rugby you play, much more so than professional rugby - basically it is the one that means that if you have an "inexperienced" front row you have to go to uncontested scrums.

In recent years professional teams, especially when faced with powerful opposition packs, have been using this rule. On a growing number of occasions, when props have been "injured" in games, clubs have claimed that they had no suitable replacements on the bench - so scrums have gone uncontested, much to their more powerful opponents annoyance.

As a result - and with little or no publicity - the IRB have changed the rules. Now, if a prop has to go off injured - and you have no replacement prop - you cannot replace them with another player. Instead, although you will have uncontested scrums, you will also only have to play with only 14 players on your team (while the opposition stay at 15). Trials of what is being called the "man off" rule in France last season resulted in a remarkable reduction in prop injuries!

However, although this rule was brought in to deal with - basically - cheating in the professional game it applies to all levels of rugby. Even, potentially, junior rugby (unless the national governing body says otherwise and, so far, neither the RFU nor RFUW have said anything).

Clearly many junior games - especially at U15 level - begin with uncontested scrums so it obviously would not apply - and we rarely have benches of substitutes anyway, so most of the time this will not matter. But in tournaments it is be different - especially for the U18s where contested scrums are quite normal.

The National Cup, for example, is played to full rules - for instance you already have to play with less players than the opposition if you do not have 15 (or if players become injured and you have no reserves) - so it is very likely that this rule will apply. It is also possible that it might apply in league matches - but this will, presumably, be up to the individual league managers (my guess is that for "development" leagues it wouldn't).

It is also probably that the rule would apply in county and regional U18 rugby (especially regional sides, where again "full rules" normally apply). The first test of this will be the Sussex county tournament in September - so if you are playing in that make sure someone asks!

One interesting matter is that in theory the rule also applies to Sevens - whether it would be applied (even in the men's, professional, game) we will have to see, but clearly losing one player from seven is a far greater punishment than losing one from 15.

The bottom line here is - unless or until the RFUW say something - if you start a game with contested scrums make sure that someone (your captain or coach) has a word with the referee, opposition coach, and/or tournament organisers before anyone's props get injured. Otherwise...

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