Premiership adopts eight-man bench
August 27, 2009
Premier Rugby chief Mark McCafferty has acted on uncontested scrums © Getty Images
Premier Rugby and the Rugby Football Union (RFU) have confirmed that this season match-day squads in the Guinness Premiership will contain 23 players, allowing for a full front-row on the bench to negate the threat of uncontested scrums.
The International Rugby Board (IRB) introduced new sanctions last week after a successful trial of the scheme in France, responding to mounting concerns that uncontested scrums were blighting high-profile contests. The 'man off' rule has also been implemented, meaning that any side forced in to uncontested scrums will not be able to replace the departing player.
Any replacements bench must now contain two props and a hooker among the eight players, a measure that saw the number of uncontested scrums dramatically reduced to just two in 994 matches during the French trial in the 2007-08 season.
"This has been an area of controversy for some time and we are pleased that changes will now be made for the forthcoming Guinness Premiership season," said Premier Rugby chief Mark McCafferty. "Premier Rugby has been working hard for this change with the support of the RFU and we welcome the new regulations. We would like to see them extended to European competition and the Anglo-Welsh Cup and are in discussions about this."
Below the Premiership the previous number of replacements will apply, with seven in the newly re-branded Championship and a minimum of three at lower levels. The 'man off' rule will however apply to all levels.
"At league level below the Guinness Premiership we have decided to keep the number of replacements the same as we need to ensure that clubs have enough front row players to fulfil their fixtures," said RFU Director of Tournaments and Competitions Terry Burwell. "At cup level, when it's a one-off game, we feel that increasing replacement front row players is manageable for clubs and will reduce uncontested scrums in such important matches."