Changes to meet needs of players

New Zealand Rugby has announced changes to club and school rugby to future-proof the game.

The changes will ensure more matches kick off rather than get defaulted. And they are designed to improve the quality of experience for players.

NZR head of participation and development Steve Lancaster said the key reason for change is to put participants at the centre of the sport.

"Rugby has been our national sport for over 125 years," he said.

"Our player numbers remain strong and, as a country, we continue to produce world-class rugby teams and athletes.

"But our players, coaches and referees are increasingly telling us they want rugby to meet their needs, not the other way around.

"We’re committed to improving the experience for everyone involved."

In 2020 a new club rugby and secondary school initiative known as Game On will be introduced, as well as a focus on non-contact RipRugby and 10-a-side rugby, which will be implemented for under-11s.

Game On is designed to reduce the number of defaults due to lack of flexibility for player numbers. Provincial unions will be implementing Game On into nominated grades.

The initiative will introduce rolling substitutions to matches and allows teams to modify team size, game length and scrum contests.

Otago Rugby Football Union community rugby manager Richard Perkins said it was about "creating more flexibility".

"It will be done in designated grades which still have to be identified," Perkins said.

"We will look to trial it more in the senior club and secondary school level."

The changes will not apply to premier club rugby, Perkins said.

Under-11 grade Small Blacks rugby will change from 15-a-side on a full field to 10-a-side on a half field.

Perkins said a 10-a-side game would allow the players to have more touches and enhance the experience for people.

And if people have fun, they are more likely to stick with the game.

"We want to support NZR there because it is about retaining kids in the game," Perkins said.

Non-contact RipRugby, which was formerly known as QuickRip, will be offered to older age-groups and introduced as a format at clubs and schools.

"We will look to see if there is an appetite for that. I think it is an offering which could be out there at secondary school level."

Law changes

to selected grades

  • Can play with fewer than 15 players per side by agreement
  • Rolling substitutions
  • The length of the game can be modified by agreement
  • More flexibility around scrum contests
  • Under-11 grade Small Blacks rugby will change from 15-a-side on a full- field  to 10-a-side on a half field.

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