The Australian Rugby League Commission (ARLC) has approved a number of key changes ahead of the 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership.
The rule and operational changes are as follows:
- a 20/40 rule will be introduced in addition to the existing 40/20 rule;
- the "mutual infringement" law will be amended, allowing the referee to replay the previous play-the-ball in the event of play being irregularly affected by circumstances out of the players' control;
- the team with the loose head and feed will be able to nominate to pack a scrum from three lateral positions (the nearest 10-metre line, the 20-metre line, or in line with the block dot on the crossbar). Teams will be given five seconds to inform the referee of their choice of scrum position;
- the act of tackling a player in mid-air will be banned whether the player initiating contact is the attacking player or the defending player, in line with the current International Laws of the game.
Furthermore, the Commission agreed that further limitations should be placed on the time orange and blue shirt trainers could spend on the field. The specific constraints will be finalised prior to the February Commission meeting.
During a meeting in Sydney, the Commission also endorsed the introduction of a general-play "challenge" system. NRL management will work through all the operational details with a final report to be provided to the commission in February.
Additionally, the Commission recommended a trial be undertaken in the second-tier competitions to assess the impact of teams being required to use six players in a scrum even when down to 12 players.
The changes followed discussion by the NRL Competition Committee and the NRL Head Coaches last month.
NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said the Commission was determined to ensure the quality of Rugby League as a spectacle was paramount.
"We are constantly looking at ways to ensure the game is easier to officiate, and is also innovative and unpredictable," Mr Greenberg said.
"We certainly feel these changes will have a positive impact on the sport."
NRL Head of Football Elite Competitions Graham Annesley said all confirmed changes would be applied to the 2020 NRL Telstra Premiership.
"We have taken advice and feedback from the key stakeholders of the game in order to make these decisions," Mr Annesley said.
"There has been significant engagement with our fans, the Competition Committee as well as through the NRL Coaches, the Clubs, and the RLPA. Over 20,000 fans responded to an end of season survey, more than tripling the response to the 2018 on-line survey."
Mr Annesley said there was strong support for each of the recommendations from the Competition Committee and the Coaches.
"We are constantly looking to evolve, and we believe these changes will lead to a more entertaining game for fans," Mr Annesley said
"The Competition Committee and the Coaches all had the game as a spectacle at the heart of their discussions, along with other key considerations including player wellbeing and the impact on the sport at all levels, and that clearly aligns with the Commission's overall vision for the sport."