Five law changes approved by the RFL ahead of 2024 season including ‘Six Again’ rule, 18th man, ‘Reckless’ tackles

Ben Olawumi
Wigan Warriors, Hull KR, Liam Moore, Scrum

Scrums are one of the focus points in the new law amendments ahead of 2024 - Alamy

Five amendments to the laws of the game have been approved and put into place by the RFL ahead of the 2024 season, including changes to the ‘Six Again’ rule, the use of an 18th man, and how tackles are deemed ‘reckless’.

As is always the case following the end of a season, various amendments to the laws of the game are recommended by the RFL Laws Committee and have to be approved by the RFL Board in order to be put into place, with agreements now reached.

Those approvals came earlier this week, and as confirmed in a statement released on the RFL’s website this afternoon, the following laws will now be amended.

Five law changes approved by the RFL ahead of 2024 season including ‘Six Again’ rule, 18th man, ‘Reckless’ tackles

Restarting the tackle count (Six Again)

In order to greaten the impact of giving away a ‘Six Again’, or on the other hand provide more of a benefit to the team with the ball in hand, these will now only come into play in the defending team’s half. Any infringements inside the ball-carrying team’s half will result in a penalty. Huddersfield Giants head coach Ian Watson will be a happy man.

The statement reads: “Laws Committee felt that some teams were deliberately conceding six-agains early in the tackle count to gain a tactical advantage.

“As part of this, Match Officials will put particular emphasis on cleaning up the ruck area. Players, coaches and match officials have agreed to see greater sanction for flops, hands on the ball-by-ball carriers and to ensure that ball carriers regain their feet on the mark and make a genuine attempt to play the ball with the foot.

“Match officials will be expected to sanction these infringements more firmly.”

18th Man rule

As recommended here on Love Rugby League back in July, clubs will be able to call upon their 18th player in 2024 if two of their 17 fail HIAs, rather than the three it required this year.

The statement reads: “The 18th Player which teams have named in their matchday squad for use in case of head injuries will now be more readily available.

“Whereas they could only previously be used when three players had failed Head Injury Assessments (HIAs), they will now be activated following two failed HIAs – or when a player is deemed ineligible to return to the field by any injury (not only to the head) caused by serious foul play which has led to an opponent being dismissed or sent to the sin bin.

“This change has been endorsed by Head Coaches, the Laws Committee and the Clinical Advisory Group.”

‘Reckless’ tackles

From 2024, a new category of misconduct has been introduced as part of the ‘Dangerous Contact’ charge. This, in the RFL’s words, ‘is defined as recklessly endangering the safety of another player by making reckless contact to the lower limb(s) of the ball carrier where they have not made a “controlled” attempt to make a tackle.’

This debate was sparked into life oncemore in July after Leigh Leopards’ Challenge Cup semi-final victory over St Helens, with Saints chief Paul Wellens left unhappy at two tackles from Leigh skipper John Asiata which had left Agnatius Paasi & Alex Walmsley with long-term injuries.

Answers on a postcard as to whether either of those tackles would fall into this new category of ‘misconduct’, but here’s what the RFL’s statement noted on this new ruling: “This law will only be relevant where the tackler has made contact with the lower leg(s) of the ball carrier.

“For the avoidance of doubt first contact with the ball carrier could have been above the knee joint but in this situation the direction of the force from the tackler must have been toward the floor.

“Indicators for this charge/law breach are the tackler:

  • Is off their feet at the point of contact with the ball carrier
  • Failed to attempt to wrap their arms around the ball carrier as the tackle was made
  • Made contact with the legs of the ball carrier on or below the knee
  • Put their own head in front of the ball carrier
  • In the opinion of the Referee, the player is not looking at the ball carrier when going into or on contact and approach to contact is out of control (e.g., eyes to floor)”

Scrum Penalties

Any penalty awarded from a scrum come 2024 will now come with the added option for teams to reset the scrum. Previously, that option was only a possibility when the penalty had been awarded for early detachment.

The statement reads: “Laws Committee recommended the change to encourage attacking play from scrums – by disincentivising deliberate concession of penalties. The option of using the sin-bin for a repeat offence is seen as especially significant in this regard.”

The use of the Green Card

Last on today’s amendment agenda was the use of the Green Card in games. This will continue in 2024, but only in Super League and not in the Championship.

It is now only to be shown to players on the defending team too, and cannot be shown to the ball carrier.

The statement reads: “It was introduced to reduce the time taken to deal with injured players on the field of play, without compromising player safety.

“If the referee has been requested by a physio or doctor to stop play because of a potentially serious injury to a defending player, and the player involved is not interchanged or taken off for a Head Injury Assessment (HIA), the player will be shown a Green Card requiring him to leave the field for two minutes of elapsed playing time.

“Also as previously, a club may use one of their interchanges to allow the player to remain on the pitch.”

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