Front-rower dispensation for Central teams welcomed

Not as many players will need to turn round at halftime.

The club season kicks off in Central Otago this Saturday.

The competition involves teams from most corners of Central Otago and the Queenstown Lakes area. But over the past few years it has sometimes been difficult to field teams and there have been defaults.

Part of the difficulty has been getting enough front-rowers for squads as under New Zealand Rugby rules all teams, when fielding a match-day 22, had to have five players who could play in the front row.

A dispensation was sought and allowed by New Zealand Rugby so teams in the Central Otago competition would have to have only four front-rowers in a squad of 22 players.

Otago Country board chairman Willis Paterson said the move would help those clubs which were a bit short at some time in the season. Anything to help the clubs out was a good idea and would keep people playing, he said.

Many did not enjoy playing in the front row as youngsters and that led to issues of not having enough props when players moved into senior ranks.

Scrum safety laws had increased though it would still be a contest, and domination at scrum time was still a key feature in a game.

The Central Otago club competition will feature eight teams, with two teams from the Cromwell club but none from Clyde-Earnscleugh.

The competition will consist of one full round followed by playoffs. Two rounds are usually played but the competition could not go too long into spring as many players had work commitments.

Matakanui Combined had pulled out last year but was all set to return this season with good player numbers.

The Topp Cup fixture between the Southern and Central regions is usually played on Queen’s Birthday weekend but will not be played this year.


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