O’Connor: Let’s embrace the changes!

Terry O’Connor

Rugby League Expert & Columnist

Last Updated: 06/07/20 8:49pm

Sky Sports pundit Terry O'Connor is pleased with the changes the Rugby Football League has made to the game ahead of the Super League restart on August 2
Sky Sports pundit Terry O’Connor is pleased with the changes the Rugby Football League has made to the game ahead of the Super League restart on August 2

Sky Sports pundit Terry O’Connor gives his verdict on the Rugby Football League’s decision to remove scrums, introduce the ‘six again’ rule and restrict quota places to seven ahead of the Super League restart on August 2…

I know a lot of people will be questioning the decision to scrap scrums, given that rugby league is a contact sport.

This rule change has not come about by just wetting your finger and sticking it up in the air – a scientific document was put together by professionals in their fields and sent to all professional rugby league clubs.

It was unanimous for all clubs that the scrum should be scrapped. This massively helps the game to get back underway in the healthiest and safest way possible on August 2, which is what we all want.

RFL 2020 restart rule changes

  • Scrums removed
  • ‘Six again’ rule adopted
  • Play-the-ball restart for kick out on the full and mutual infringements
  • Restriction on legal point of contact for the third player in an upright tackle

From someone who has been in the front row of scrums – they’ve now become an opportunity for forwards to rest and get a breather. Nobody has pushed in scrums for a long time, it’s years ago since that happened. It’s now simply a way of restarting the game.

Trust me, when you get to a scrum you’re breathing heavily, coughing and spluttering – then you’re holding onto somebody, both of you dripping in sweat and locking heads in a scrum for several seconds.

If you think about the game of rugby league and tackling, it’s very rare that players would be face to face in a tackle – it’s when players pack down for a scrum that this occurs.

A scientific document was put together by professionals in their fields and sent to all professional rugby league clubs when considering whether to scrap scrums
A scientific document was put together by professionals in their fields and sent to all professional rugby league clubs when considering whether to scrap scrums

By removing the scrums we are minimising the risk of contracting coronavirus and the more we can do this in the current climate, the better it will be for players’ health and wellbeing.

Some of the backs may be disappointed because they lose the opportunity to produce sets plays from scrums when they have a bit more space and there’s six fewer players in the defensive line – but there’s other rules that have been put into play that will help them instead.

I don’t believe it will impact on the game itself. Scrums are just a gathering of six players from each side in one area of the pitch. The more we can keep the ball in hand and in play, watching good attack and defence, the better.

I don’t know any fan in the world that specifically goes to a game to watch scrums. You don’t really want to see a scrum anyway, because that means there’s been an error before it.

Terry O’Connor

Fans want to see fast-flowing rugby – I don’t know any fan in the world that specifically goes to a game to watch scrums. You don’t really want to see a scrum anyway, because that means there’s been an error before it.

If it’s a way of getting the game going again and keeping the players fit and healthy – and there’s a game taking place with six tackles – I would say that’s all that matters at the moment.

On the subject of six tackles, I’ve been loving watching the ‘Six Again’ rule in the NRL and I am glad that we have implemented this change on these shores as well.

In an ideal world coaches and players might have liked a bit of time to train with the new rule and get used to it, but that’s in an ideal world – we are not in an ideal world at this moment.

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I feel that there are certain teams in Super League that will absolutely love it and others who have monster packs that will absolutely hate it!

Any side who has a quick hooker around the ruck that can pick up the ball and shoot from dummy half will have a real advantage with this.

All the action and movement that we’ve seen in the NRL has been based around the middle channel and I think it’s been brilliant to watch. You can see the positive impact it’s having on the game.

O'Connor feels the 'six again' rule has enhanced the NRL competition
O’Connor feels the ‘six again’ rule has enhanced the NRL competition

If you get the ruck speed quicker, you will lose that third player coming in and trying to slow it down – and if that still persists, you will be penalised.

One of my real pet hates is the third player coming into a tackle attacking the knees – and it’s good to see that they’ve brought a rule in to prevent this as well. I think it really hindered our game and injured players as a result – and with the ‘Six Again’ rule teams will really suffer if they continue with this.

I believe the ‘Six Again’ rule will create fast, open rugby and more points in games. Fans want to be entertained and most fans that I’ve spoke with wanted to adopt the rule

For a 10-year period teams became obsessed with running the same shape and ball plays. It took away the ability from the natural rugby players to look up and play what’s in front of them.

We are confirming some significant changes to the way the game will be played…which we believe are important and necessary to prioritise the welfare of players, and the success of the season.

Simon Johnson, RFL Chairman

When scouts are watching U14s play on a Sunday morning, they’re not playing to any shape – they’re getting the ball and they’re playing rugby. When we bring them into the professional game, we almost turn them into robots by telling them exactly how to play.

Any good half-back, hooker or full-back will see that there is much more space and speed around the play the ball area now – and this will make for a much more attractive game.

I am yet to hear anybody who has said the NRL is worse off for this rule change.

With regards to removing the Quota Rule at all levels – I am very happy with this change. I don’t want to see the game over here flooded with overseas players, whichever way they’re allowed to be exempt from restrictions.

If you were born overseas, then you’re an overseas player. Keep it simple and let the young players in the UK be given a chance to play with quality overseas players that will benefit the game and enhance the young kids in the system as well.

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I think now is the perfect time to make these changes given the situation we currently find ourselves in – the shortened season gives a good opportunity to trial them and to see if they will improve and enhance our game long term.

If it doesn’t work what have we lost? Let’s embrace it and see how it goes!

Source : Sky Sports