In 2020, a club rugby, and secondary school rugby trial known as the Game On initiative will be introduced. As well, a focus on non-contact girls and boys RipRugby and 10-a-side rugby, which be implemented for the Under 11 age group.
New Zealand Rugby (NZR) Head of Participation and Development Steve Lancaster, said in a media statement that the key motivator for the Game On initiative was to put participants at the center of the sport.
“Rugby has been our national sport for over 125 years, our player numbers remain strong and as a country, we continue to produce world-class rugby teams and athletes,” Lancaster said.
“But our players, coaches, and referees are increasingly telling us they want rugby to meet their needs, not the other way around. We’re committed to improving the experience for everyone involved.
“Our developments will help us future-proof rugby and remain relevant for the next 125 years.”
Club rugby/Secondary School Game On initiative to be introduced
Game On is designed to reduce the number of default matches due to a lack of flexibility for player numbers. Provincial Unions will be implementing the new Game On initiative into nominated grades, for both girls and boys competitions.
The new initiative will introduce rolling substitutions to matches and allows teams to modify team size, game length, and scrum contests. Lancaster said Game On ensures more matches can be played.
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“People love playing, but they have busy lives and it can be hard to commit to turning up every Saturday for 16 weeks. There are so many more options competing for their time so we need to make sure rugby remains attractive and accessible in the context of people’s busy, modern lives.”
As a result, if the two teams scheduled to compete, cannot make-up a field of 15 players, both teams and the referee agree to reduce the field to 10 players, then a match can proceed. It will provide options, and reduce the number of games that previously, may have been forfeited if numbers did not reach 15 [a full team].
Under 11 grade Small Blacks rugby will change from 15-a-side on a full-field, to 10-a-side on a half field.
Lancaster said the shifts at this age-grade level reflect best-practice for the development of young rugby players. “Small Blacks want to learn how to be better, play with their mates and have fun. That’s what sport is about at that age.
“We know small-sided games allow kids to have more touches of the ball giving them the best opportunity to improve.”
Non-contact RipRugby will be offered to older age groups and introduced as a format at rugby clubs and schools.
Lancaster said teenagers and adults were asking for more new ways to play rugby. “Non-contact and shortened versions like sevens are growing in popularity, especially with teenagers.
“Provincial Unions are seeing real success already with RipRugby which enables kids to enjoy the game without the usual commitment, nor risk of injury. Kids are loving it and staying in the sport.”
Provincial Unions are set to introduce the new developments into school and club rugby from 1 January 2020.
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