return to play update

Following yesterday’s Government approval for adapted contact rugby to resume in the Community Game, we’ve compiled Return to Play guidance, for the new game and law variations which will come into effect for match play. This guidance below is designed to help clubs resume adapted contact training from Wednesday 2 December to give players time to prepare ahead of the permitted return to local friendly fixtures from Friday 18 December.

Please note, there is no obligation for players and clubs to play 15-a-side adaptations. Clubs can still play Ready4Rugby matches up until and beyond 18 December. This simply provides clubs with an opportunity to play adapted contact rugby should they wish.

Adapted Stage E rules/laws for Age Grade Rugby have also been approved for U7-13 and U14-18. The move to Stage E will allow the restart of Tag Rugby for U7s and U8s. The Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed schools/colleges can return to playing sport in line with approved NGB action plans. Universities will need to align rugby with their planning for student engagement, testing and return home in December. It remains an education institution decision whether playing rugby is possible within their own requirements and measures.

These law variations will be reviewed as the season progresses and as restrictions are changed.

We understand our return to play is a huge moment for our sport and for you as clubs and CBs. We all share a collective desire and responsibility to get this right. Now, we really need to be as safe as we can be so that we can continue the phased return to rugby for our local communities without further interruptions.

The Rugby Football Union (RFU) welcomes the news that Government has given its approval for 15-a-side contact rugby union to return at grassroots level, subject to adaptations.

This comes after extensive research and consultations with Government into mitigating the risks of close contact. By using law variations, this will limit the risk of prolonged face-to-face contact, allowing the community game to resume (everything below the Greene King IPA Championship and Allianz Premier 15s).

Clubs will be able to begin adapted training from Wednesday 2 December in preparation for local friendly fixtures recommencing from Friday 18 December when the following law variations will come into effect:

  • There will be no scrums or mauls in the game.
  • Instead of a scrum, the game will begin with a free kick. This free kick cannot be taken quickly.
  • A minimum of five and a maximum of seven players from each team are required to form a lineout.
  • A team awarded a penalty or free kick will no longer be able to choose a scrum option.
  • A team awarded a penalty or free kick at a lineout can instead choose another lineout at the same mark.

COVID-19 Law Variations 2020/21


The principal changes are to:

1. Suspend Law 19 (other than the amended Law 19.1 below) in its entirety.

2. Suspend Law 16 in its entirety.

Law 16: The Maul is suspended in its entirety

Players must not bind onto a team-mate who is in possession of the ball. Sanction: Penalty kick.

When one or more players come into contact with an opposing ball carrier and do not bring that player to ground, those players may attempt to gain possession of the ball if done immediately, but thereafter must not prevent the ball carrier from playing the ball. Sanction: Penalty kick to the team in possession of the ball.

No other player may join these players in contact. Sanction: Penalty kick against arriving players.

The ball carrier must play the ball immediately. Sanction: Penalty kick to the team not in possession.

Law 18 Lineout

18.11 – Forming a Lineout. The throwing team must, when forming the lineout, have a minimum of five players and maximum of seven players. Sanction: Free-kick to the non-throwing team.

18.14 – Amend to ‘The non-throwing team must match the number of players in the lineout with the throwing team. Sanction: Free-kick to the throwing team.

The player winning the ball in the lineout must either pass the ball immediately, release it to a teammate or leave the lineout as soon as they land on the ground. Sanction: Free-kick.

NB: Law 18.3 & 4 (quick throw) have not been varied.

Law 19 Scrum

19.1 – Principle. Amend to ‘Where the game would restart play with a scrum, is replaced with a Free-kick in all circumstances.’

Law 5 Time

5.7 a: Delete ‘scrum’.

5.7 b: Amend to ‘The referee awards a Penalty or Free-kick, other than a Free-kick for which a scrum would have been awarded previously.’ (This will end the half or full-time.)

5.9 – Irrespective of the weather conditions, the referee has the discretion to allow water breaks at any stage of the match.

Law 20 Penalty and Free-Kick

20.3 – Amend to ‘A team awarded a Penalty or Free-kick may not choose a scrum.’

20.4 – Amend to ‘A team awarded a Penalty or Free-kick at a lineout may instead choose another lineout at the same mark.’

20.11 – Amend to ‘Taking a Penalty or Free-Kick. The ball must be kicked a visible distance. If the kicker is holding it, it must clearly leave the hands. If it 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: Free-Kick

NB: There is no change to taking a penalty kick quickly

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