eels vs dragons, nrl rule changes

As always, there’ll be NRL rule changes in 2021! While I like some of the innovations that have been put forward in recent years, this time it feels like they are searching for ways to change the game without a sound basis.

Minor NRL rule changes

A two-point field goal will be awarded for teams who kick a field goal from outside the 40-metre line. I cannot see when such a play would make sense. Other than if a team is down by two points with a few minutes remaining and they have the wind behind them. In that situation, playing for a two point field goal might be the optimal play, but it will be extremely hard to pull off and like the 20/40m kick rule of 2020, it is something that I think will barely affect the game.

However, some of the other NRL rule changes – which are all aimed at speeding up the game – will have a a significant impact and are likely to lead to more points being scored:

Six again for 10-metre infringements

10-metre infringement penalties will be replaced with a “six again” ruling. This is in addition to the six again rule for ruck infringements that came in last year. The combined effect of these two rule changes will be to speed up the game to a level we have not seen. Immobile and unfit forwards will be rubbed out of the game.

And now when teams are back-pedaling, they will not be able to deploy stalling tactics of any kind without running the risk of copping a sin bin. This will only further add to the huge momentum surges we saw in 2020 and will likely increase the points scored per game.

Scrums

The referee will call “BREAK” when he or she is satisfied the ball is out of a scrum. Players will be penalised if they break from a scrum before the referee makes the call. This will make attacking scrums a much more lethal play. Teams with gun fullbacks (Tedesco, Tommy T, Papenhuyzen, Ponga) will be incredibly hard to stop close to the line. This will lead to more tries being scored from set scrum plays.

Handover for incorrect play the ball

A handover will be ordered where players do not make a genuine attempt to play the ball with their foot. The impact of this will depend on how strictly it is enforced. Hard to gauge, but this is one rule that will serve to slow down the attacking team.

Captain’s challenge

In cases where a Captain’s Challenge review is inconclusive, the on-field decision will stand but the team will retain their challenge. No impact on the way the game is played, as far as I can see – but a good, sensible rule change. The Cap’s challenge has been a great innovation and when the video in not conclusive, it was not fair that a team would lose their challenge.

Bunker Reviews

Where the on-field referee believes a try is scored the referee will award a try and the bunker will review the decision in the background. This will hopefully speed up the game, but it depends on how often a ref backs themselves to just call it how they see it.

Trainers

In 2021, where a trainer asks a match official to stop the game for an injury, the injured player must be either interchanged or taken off the field for a period of two minutes of elapsed game time before he is permitted to resume his place on the field. This will reduce the number of stoppages for minor injuries. This is a great change and will deter teams from faking injuries, though I would have liked it if the player was forced to leave the field for five or even ten minutes, to really deter milking.

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