20-minute red cards were initially introduced in 2020 when Super Rugby adopted the rule

New Zealand Rugby has announced the introduction of a 20-minute red card at community level in a trial which will last two seasons. 

The law means that players who are sent off for a red card offence can be replaced after 20 minutes. 

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The offending player themself cannot return to the field of play, but a replacement can come on once the time has passed. 

This theoretically allows both teams and the match to remain as competitive as possible, while still ensuring foul play is punished. 

First trialled in Super Rugby in 2020, the law will now apply to the community game in New Zealand, including at both club and school level. 

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Adoption of the trial was supported by the 26 Provincial Unions and New Zealand Rugby said it affirmed its commitment to safety and positive player experiences. 

The 20-minute red card was rejected by World Rugby at a council meeting in 2022 and had been rumoured to be adopted ahead of the 2023 World Cup but ultimately was not used. 

It has been a controversial law change at Super Rugby level and has been subject to criticism on social media. 

However, New Zealand Rugby’s General Manager Community Rugby Steve Lancaster said: “We believe that this innovation suitably deals with the offending player, whilst also preserving the competition and experience for teams, coaches, spectators and referees. 

“We know our fans and community participants want a game that’s exciting and puts them at the centre of decision making. 

“Our view is that we can continue to trial these types of innovations and contribute to the overall global evolution of the game.” 

Three other laws will also be trialled over the next two seasons as part of the new innovations to the community game. 

Tackle height will be reduced to below the sternum for the first tackler, while the second can tackle below the shoulders. 

Scrum halves will not be allowed past the tunnel of a scrum and the maximum push for scrums is to be limited to 1.5 metres. 

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