Kicking clocks, limited scrums and red card replacements after 20 minutes are among variations in American league


Major League Rugby trial new laws to ‘enhance’ the game

Major League Rugby will trial new laws in the 2021 season, which begins on 20 March.

The changes, which include reducing scrums and the time kickers are given to take penalties and conversions, have been brought in to “enhance” the game, according to match official director Jonathan Kaplan.

He said: “Our goal is to continue to offer fans and teams fast-paced, competitive rugby that is safe and balanced. We believe these new laws will enhance our on-field product while staying true to the spirit of rugby.”

Related: How to stream Major League Rugby

What are the new law variations?

The 12-team league will see five new laws implemented from the first game of the season between Rugby United New York and San Diego Legion on Saturday.

The new laws are:

  • Kickers will have 60 seconds instead of 90 to take a penalty or conversion. They will have a kick clock to guide them to make sure they stick to the time allotted.

    Major League Rugby trial new laws

    Kickers in MLR will have a strict time limit (Getty Images)

  • Seven points will automatically be given if a try is scored under the posts – no conversion will be necessary.
  • Referees will work with stricter protocols that will limit the number of scrums to two per incident – the original plus one reset for a collapse, penalty, or free kick.
  • The offside line will be the feed line/channel of the scrum to allow for unimpeded access to the ball at the back of the scrum for the attacking team.
  • A red card will no longer mean a team is down to 14 players for the rest of the match. The new law will see a red-carded player reduce a team to 14 men for 20 minutes. After that time has passed, the team will be able to replace the player with someone from their bench. The red-carded player cannot return to the field and will face disciplinary action.

How have people reacted?

The announcement has received a mixed reaction. The Times‘ Alex Lowe welcomed the kicking clock…

And Ampthill’s Charlie Beckett is interested to see how the new laws play out. He tweeted: “Really intrigued to see how these law variations effect the game. Hopefully all positive and result in a higher ball in play time with less stoppages and a more enjoyable game to watch for the viewers and play in for the players!

Also, love that they’re trying to deal with the number of scrum resets, it’s a huge issue in our game. My only worry is, what happens if a scrum does go down a second time and it’s not obvious who is at fault or there is a genuine slip? Do refs just guess?

However, some on social media have raised their concerns at the new laws.

And another added: “Disappointing. Not a fan of these changes and the fact nothing was said until the first weekend means you all knew people would not react favourably.”

What do you think of the new laws? Let us know by emailing

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