Sport | Rugby

20-minute red card rule comes to community rugby

NZR will trial a new rule across the motu for the 2024/25 seasons.

Community rugby in New Zealand is poised to trial a 20-minute red card replacement, which allows a player who has been shown a red card to be replaced after 20 minutes by another player.

Similarly, if a player receives a second yellow card resulting in an automatic red card, the red-carded player can also be replaced after a further 20 minutes.

Endorsed by the 26 Provincial Unions, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) says the innovation will be roll out across all tiers of the game in New Zealand, including clubs and schools.

NZR’s general manager for community rugby, Steve Lancaster, believes the decision underscores dedication to safety and enhancing player experiences at the grassroots level.

“This is the first community trial for this innovation anywhere in the world and we’re proud that New Zealand continues to lead in finding ways to create a safer game that our participants love to play,” he says.

“We believe that this innovation suitably deals with the offending player, whilst also preserving the competition and experience for teams, coaches, spectators and referees.”

The introduction of the 20-minute red card was first piloted by NZR in Super Rugby back in 2020 to effectively manage instances of foul play without compromising the integrity of the match.

Since then, it has been successfully integrated into various competitions including Super Rugby Pacific, Sky Super Rugby Aupiki, the Rugby Championship, and Provincial Rugby competitions.

Lancaster also highlighted the strength of alignment between the professional and community games in New Zealand rugby.

“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.” He says.

Following successful trials in 2023, NZR announced in December of last year that the following measures would be implemented: a reduced tackle height to below the sternum, a maximum scrum push for all community rugby (excluding senior premier club rugby), and half-back offside at the scrum.

New rugby rules

For the 2024 and 2025 seasons, the community rugby game innovations will be as follows:

1. Reduced tackle height: Tackles must target the belly area, with the first tackler aiming below the sternum. The second tackler can tackle legally below the shoulders as per current rugby laws.

2. Halfback offside at the scrum: The halfback of the team not in possession in a scrum must only advance past the tunnel once the scrum has concluded. If they choose to remain in a position in front of their Number 8′s feet, they must stay within 1m of the scrum.

3. Maximum scrum push: The maximum push in any scrum is limited to 1.5 metres, except when the scrum is within 5 metres of the goal line. Note: Small Blacks rugby at U12 and U13s is already limited to a maximum 0.5-meter scrum push. Teenage rugby is restricted to a maximum 1.5-meter scrum push regardless of the field’s location.

4. Red card replacement: A player who receives a red card may be replaced after 20 minutes by another player.