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World Rugby to consider controversial law variation

IN THE SPOTLIGHT: World Rugby are to examine the possibility of introducing the 20-minute red card as a global law trial.


The rule, which is currently being trialled in the southern hemisphere’s elite Super Rugby club competition, means a player who is sent off can be tactically replaced by a substitute after 20 minutes.

England lock Charlie Ewels was sent off after just 82 seconds against Ireland at Twickenham in the Six Nations last month, meaning the hosts had to play almost the entire game down to 14 men.

Ireland eventually pulled away in the last quarter to win 32-15 as the disadvantage of being a man down caught up with England.

Many pundits argue a red card is often too harsh a punishment and ruins a game as a spectacle but others believe the 20-minute red is an insufficient sanction for serious foul play.

Ewels saw red as part of World Rugby’s determination to stamp out head-high challenges, with the global governing body eager to lower tackle heights in response to concerns about the long-term health impacts of concussion on players.

The Super Rugby trial, however, has so far proved inconclusive.


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“That’s been discussed before and will be discussed again,” World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin told Britain’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.

“It would be great if more competitions, even in a closed trial, would use it because that would give us more of an overview of the effect it would have on the game.”


Gilpin added: “We need to see more of the data to see whether that strikes the balance between safety and spectacle better.

“There is more work to do to analyse that and the concern is, if a team goes back to 15 players, is that enough of a deterrent to drive that behavioural change?

“We would like to see it trialled more widely before drawing any conclusions.”

The 20-minute red card can be trialled by individual competitions, as is the case in Super Rugby, but cannot be considered for global adoption before the next women’s (later this year) and men’s (2023) Rugby World Cups.

The 20-minute red card failed to gain World Rugby support when global trials were considered back in May 2021, but dispensation was given to any competition wanting to implement the rule as a closed trial.

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