World Rugby aims to reduce contact by cutting scrums, adding orange cards

London (AFP) –


Elite rugby union could see the introduction of orange cards after World Rugby unveiled trials of 10 temporary optional laws to cut the risk of coronavirus infection.

They include a drastic reduction in the number of scrums per match, limiting numbers in a maul and quickening up rucks.

In rugby union, a yellow card leads to 10 minutes in the sin-bin with a red card seeing a player sent off.

The suggested orange card, which would apply only to the professional game, is designed to reinforce high-tackle guidelines and reduce face-to-face contact.

It would apply to potential red-card offences, with a player removed from the field while an incident is checked by the television match official.

If deemed a red-card offence, the player would not return. If not, they would return after 15 minutes.

Measures would be implemented at the discretion of individual unions based on the risk of virus infection in their countries and government guidelines.

"We have extensively evaluated the perceived risk areas within the game," World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont said on Thursday.

One persistently thorny problem for professional rugby union, long before COVID-19, has been the amount of time it takes to reset a scrum.

But Friday's proposals include doing away with scrum resets, to be replaced by free kicks or penalties. Where "no infringement occurs" it goes to team with the scrum put-in.

- Scrum contact -

World Rugby estimated the changes could reduce scrum contact exposure by more than 30 percent.

Hygiene protocols put forward by the global governing body include the use of hand and face sanitiser and washing the ball.

Players would, where possible, be asked to change their kit at half-time and have been advised to avoid pre-match huddles, hugging team-mates in celebration, and spitting.

When training, scrum practice should be against a machine rather than another set of forwards, with high-risk transmission exercises such as scrummaging and mauling avoided within 48 hours of a match.

England's governing Rugby Football Union (RFU) said it "recognised" World Rugby's work but added that it had its own review under way looking at options for returning to training and playing.

Many in the game fear rugby could lag behind other sports in making a return because it is a full-contact sport, but Australian rugby league restarted on Thursday with a match between the Brisbane Broncos and Parramatta Eels.

With this year's Six Nations still to be completed and the whole July programme of international matches in the southern hemisphere postponed due to the pandemic, rugby union faces the prospect of huge financial losses worldwide.

World Rugby, however, has put in place an £80 million ($98 million) funding package for the global game and there are hopes the postponed Tests can be played later this year.