RFL confirm play-the-ball rule changes for 2020

Drew Darbyshire

The Rugby Football League’s laws committee has approved a change in the policing of play-the-balls in the 2020 season.

The proposal, which was unanimously accepted, stresses the responsibility of the tackled player “to maintain balance and control and make a genuine attempt to make contact on the ball with the foot”.

It is also the tackled player’s responsibility to place the ball on the ground at their feet and not on a defender, and a failure to fulfil any of those requirements (balance, control, placing the ball on the ground and making a genuine attempt to play it with the foot) will be ruled a lost ball (not a penalty), leading to a scrum.

The Laws Committee believe a scrum is a more appropriate punishment for this error than a penalty. In turn the above has been ratified by the RFL Board.

Other significant changes which have been approved by the laws committee and RFL board for 2020 are:

Punches to the head/striking

After deliberation by the Laws Committee, striking (defined as contact being made to the head which is deemed by the match officials) will be included as an automatic sin bin in the updated sin bin section of the match officials’ policy.

Shot clock

As previously announced, teams will now have only 30 seconds to restart the match at a scrum, and 25 seconds for a drop-out.

Golden point 

Again as previously announced, golden point extra-time will be introduced to the Championship and League 1 in 2020, with each team taking one competition point from a match that is drawn at full-time, and an additional point available to the first team to score a point in two five-minute periods of extra-time.

Squad Declaration

As announced in December, teams will now be required to name a 21-player squad at noon two days before each fixture (rather than a 19-player squad, as previously); and if they include any players from outside that 21 in their matchday 17, they will lose one of the eight interchanges permitted in each match.

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