The NSW Rugby League will try a radical new rule in next year's
pre-season Challenge competition in an attempt to prevent scrum penalties from
spoiling the game.
Under the new rule, some scrum infringements will result in a hand-over of
possession instead of a differential penalty (one which does not allow a kick
Referees will also be instructed to try to limit each scrum to one feed.
The new rule, which may be used in the premiership, is a response to a
controversial directive from the International Rugby League Board (IRLB) that
the ball be fed into the centre of scrums.
The League was told to enforce the straight feed rule in the Challenge
games, then report on its effect to the IRLB, which would decide whether it
should be enforced in the premiership.
During the past decade, half-backs have been allowed to roll the ball
under their secondrowers' feet, and scrums have become lawless and predictable.
While acknowledging the problems, most League officials believed this was
the best system.
They feared a return to the days when matches were decided by contentious
and often confusing scrum penalties, sometimes awarded seemingly arbitrarily, as
well as the extra pressure on referees.
Powerful NSWRL officials, including general manager John Quayle, were
displeased with the IRLB's directive, which was delivered last May and repeated
at last month's conference of chief executives in Coffs Harbour.
Quayle's discontent signalled division within the League, since the
chairman, Ken Arthurson, is the IRLB's director-general, and he strongly
supported a return to straight feeds.
However, the League devised a compromise plan (presumably tolerated by
Arthurson) which has been approved by the IRLB.
Under the trial rules, two types of scrum infringements - incorrect feeds
and premature striking by hookers and front-rowers - will result in hand-overs.
"They're the two things that prevent the ball going into the scrum
properly," the NSWRL's coaching co-ordinator for referees, Mick Stone, said
Under the trial, the referee will direct the nearest player from the
non-offending team to play the ball on an allocated mark.
"It gives them the opportunity to catch the opposition unawares," Stone
"We think it will bring less pressure on referees because of the lack of a
penalty ... less chance of complaints of controversial decisions. It will
divert focus from the scrum very quickly."
All other rule breaches, such as screwing and collapsing the scrum, locks
breaking prematurely and backs standing off-side, will still incur a
It is unclear whether the experimental rules will be applied to next
season's premiership, but it is unlikely, since they are not being used in
Britain, and the IRLB generally seeks uniformity among its members.
Stone said that if the straight feed were working well that would most
likely be enforced in the premiership.
"As for the experimental rule, who knows where that's going to go?" he
The uncertainty means club chief executives still do not know whether they
should be pursuing specialist hookers.
It is understood the rule was the brainchild of one of the League's
vice-presidents, Eric Cox.
Meanwhile, organisers of the world sevens may shortly announce they have
found a naming sponsor for the event, which was left with only minor backers by
the withdrawal of Nissan.
Promoter Colin Love is understood to have been negotiating with another
The sevens will go ahead regardless of sponsorship, but a new backer would
allow Wales and Canada - both keen to come, but short of cash - to make up a
27-team contest, tournament spokesman Geoff Prenter said yesterday.
At present, 25 teams are booked for the event, which will be played at the
Sydney Football Stadium in early February.
South Africa yesterday announced their sevens coach as Paul Matete , a
former New Zealand rugby league international centre.
Russia want the same coach they had last year, Rod Reddy, and will
approach the former Australian international and renowned prankster in the next
Their entry this time will be a national side. Last year, they sent a club
team, the Red Arrows, who were knocked out of one of the consolation
tournaments by the American team.
Western Samoa won a recent qualifying event to become the Pacific
Islands'entrant in the sevens.