More calls to establish universal laws for rugby league worldwide

James Gordon
Toulouse coach Sylvain Houles

The impact of non-universal rugby league laws across the world will be evident when a Super League team takes to the field for the first time in 2021 this weekend.

Catalans Dragons are taking on a French selection of the best players from the Elite Championship, giving newly appointed national team coach Laurent Frayssinous an opportunity to look at the best players available to him.

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The French Championship has been the only rugby league competition active since the Super League Grand Final back in November, gaining more attention than ever before as a result.

But for the game this weekend, the players will have to play under different rules than they are used to.

It has been confirmed that the new Super League rulings will be enforced, including the 20/40 rule and the six-again rule, while there will also be no scrums – which have otherwise continued in the French domestic competition.

There also tweaks to the play the ball and ball steal interpretations.

This will introduce the rulings to the French players ahead of their presumed usage at the 2021 World Cup. The NRL’s latest fad, two-points for a drop goal, will not be implemented having been snubbed too by the RFL.

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The variation in laws across the world does hinder development, a point not lost on Toulouse coach Sylvain Houles.

Speaking to us last year, he said: “I find sometimes it’s a different game in Elite. We don’t have the same rules and even though we’re one sport, we’ve got different rules in France to the ones in England.

“We need to change that. We need to make sure we play the same game. We need to teach them the transition, because if I want to take a player from our reserve side to play (RFL) Championship, I have to teach him how to defend, how to work, they don’t have the free play or the seven tackle rule.”

Toulouse’s second string have been much more competitive this season in the French Championship, and that can only be a good sign for encouraging progression at the club, especially for the younger players.

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Houles has also used his experience of the English game to pass on to his French counterparts, spending time with Limoux and Albi, as well as supporting match officials with interpretations and linking them up to the RFL match officials department.

He said: “There was about 10 guys last year who were training with us, but maybe were a bit too young to play in French Championship. But we know it’s important and the idea is to bring players through.

“I find the game in France is being played by kids, not men. There’s some great coaches in France in the tactical and technical side, but physical ability isn’t as good. And in the (RFL) Championship, it’s rough and they need to bring that physicality week in, week out.

“We don’t necessarily see that week, in week out in France.”

You can watch the game between Catalans Dragons and the French Selection live on YouTube, on Saturday March 6 (2pm UK). Click here to access.