Rugby clubs await decision on 2020-21 season format

Bideford v St Austell in Western Counties West. Picture: Kevin Crowl

Bideford v St Austell in Western Counties West. Picture: Kevin Crowl - Credit: Kevin Crowl

Rugby clubs in Devon could find out this week what league format their season will take if the sport really does kick-off in January.

Clubs were informed late last week they could resume training immediately with a provisional date of Friday, December 18 fixed for the resumption of friendly matches.

No adult team will be forced to play 15-a-side, adapted contact rugby if they don’t want to and can continue with variations on tag and touch rugby as per the Ready4Rugby rules in use until the second lockdown started.

Limited league action is due to start on January 16, providing there are no further Covid-19 restrictions in place then.

The RFU’s South West Organising Committee, which manages league rugby in Devon. Cornwall, Somerset and Dorset, has drawn-up provisional micro-divisions ready for games to start next month.


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A midweek meeting on Zoom is due to take place to confirm the composition of the micro-divisions, which will be circulated to clubs in due course.

Club coaches, captains and chairmen are all eager to get playing again, even though the format will not be full contact.

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Jordan Petherbridge, the player-coach at Western Counties side Bideford, says his squad are champing at the bit to start playing again.

“To be back playing rugby is the ultimate as it will be a long 10 months without it by the time we get back to playing,” said Petherbridge.

“It’ll be very different with the adaptations to the game, but they the players are keen for the challenge.

“It is a massive opportunity to develop themselves as players and as a squad going forward.

“Although it’s friendlies the hunger is still there to be competitive and put ourselves in a strong position for when the league structures return.”

Reece Eury, the South Molton captain said his team-mates are keen to get back on the park.

“I guess most are looking forward to some form of contact rugby and just getting back to normal a little,” said Eury.

When matches resume later this month, there are a number of significant variations to the standard laws of the game. They are:

*No mauls. Players cannot bind on to a team-mate carrying the ball. Sanction for non-compliance: a penalty

*A ball carrier tackled by one or more opponents must play the ball immediately. Sanction for non-compliance: a penalty

*No player may arrive and join those already in contact with the ball carrier. Sanction for non-compliance: a penalty

*The throwing-in team at a line-out must have a minimum of five and a maximum of seven players in a line-out. Sanction for non-compliance: free-kick

*Non-throwing team must have the same number of players in a line-out as the throwing-in team. Sanction for non-compliance: free-kick

*Player winning the ball must play the ball immediately (ie: no catch-and-drive moves) or leave the line-out immediately. Sanction for non-compliance: free-kick.

*No scrums will be awarded to either side. Where a scrum would have been awarded the game will restart with a free-kick to the non-offending team

*There is no option to take a scrum when a penalty or free-kick has been awarded

*When a penalty or free-kick is awarded for a line-out offence the non-offending team may chose another line-out at the same mark

*Law 20.11 relating to taking a penalty or free-kick now reads: ‘The ball must be kicked a visible distance. If the kicker is holding the ball, it must clearly leave the hands. If the ball is on the ground, it must clearly leave the mark. Other than on either of the five-metre from goal lines, once the free-kick has been taken legally, the kicker may not run with the ball.’ Sanction for non-compliance: free-kick

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