The World Rugby Executive Committee has approved 10 optional domestic law trials which are designed to provide national member unions with further COVID-19 transmission risk reduction measures if required.
Temporary law trials relating to the scrum, tackle, ruck and maul were approved along with a package of best-practice match hygiene measures. Each measure aims to reduce individual cumulative exposure to these contact activities, which are generally accepted as presenting the highest COVID-19 transmission risk.
Unions can apply to implement one or more of the temporary law amendments as domestic trials at elite or community levels on a needs-basis in line with the World Rugby return-to-play guidance published this month.
Recognising the fluid global COVID-19 environment, implementation by unions will be entirely based on their territory-specific requirements and respective government advice and directives.
The trials are informed by World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance, which determines high transmission risk as being 15 cumulative minutes within one metre of an infected person. The important considerations for rugby are:
- It is generally accepted that sustained close contact carries greater COVID-19 transmission risk than close proximity
- It is also generally accepted that close proximity in an outdoor environment carries lesser risk that an indoor environment
- As transmission risk during a game is related to both physical contact and proximity, further evidence-based risk reduction should be focused on contact activities
- While individual exposure to contact activities such as scrums, tackles, lineouts, rucks and mauls are generally within 15 cumulative minutes, further exposure reduction is possible
- Risk reduction can also be achieved via best-practice match management, including hygiene measures, screening, testing and implementation of World Rugby’s return-to-play guidance
- Sport should only return when safe and appropriate to do so in line with government advice
The trials provide limits to scrum options with no scrum resets, limits for players joining rucks and mauls, time to play the ball at the base of scrums and rucks reduced from five to three seconds and only one movement permitted for a maul. Such an approach could reduce contact exposure for tight five players by more than 30 per cent, reduce exposure at the ruck by up to 25 per cent and reduce maul contact exposure by 50 per cent.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “World Rugby is committed to evidence-based injury and infection preventative measures and we are fortunate to have such strong medical and research structures that inform our approach. "
- Mandatory hand and face sanitisation pre- and post-match
- Regular ball sanitisation before, during and after matches
- Single user water bottles/hydration
- Changing of jerseys, shorts and headgear at half-time where possible
- Prevention of huddles and celebrations involving contact
- Prevention of spitting and nose clearance
- Forwards units: high risk transmission activity such as an eight-person scrum should be undertaken against machine to limit exposure, packs should be trained separately
- Scrum and maul practice should take place at the end of a training session, preferably a day before a ‘down day’ to allow 24-48 hours before collective training
- High transmission risk training should be avoided within 48 hours of a game