New rules, but will it make kids rugby a touch better than before?
THE way youngsters play tag rugby is about to change this season. Key changes are that the pitches are going to be smaller and there will be fewer players on the pitch. Here, Youngsport columnist Kate Hayes writes about the changes
AS a keen tag rugby player, I wanted to know why they have changed the rules, as I was unsure why these changes were being made.
The RFU have been trialing the new rules for three years and have had positive feedback from the children, saying that they found they got the ball more and they scored more tries.
The rules are intended to be much easier to understand. Gary Townsend – Player Development Manager for the RFU believes the new rules will produce significantly more tries, passes and tackles/tags.
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Research into the changes found that the ball is in play 20 per cent to 25 per cent more than before.
The original rules were set in 1990 and based on a diluted version of the adult game. The RFU decided to 'refresh' the rules and make them more child-centred.
Children have a shorter attention-span than adults so they need more focus!
The RFU hope the smaller teams will allow the coaches time to focus on the different ability levels.
Personally I think that making the rules more child-friendly will help the players improve.
However, I am concerned that having less players on the pitch at Under-Seven level could negatively affect a child's interest in the sport.
If there is a large group of players, many may not get to play a match, which may result in less enthusiasm.
Shane Aldridge, chairman of mini and Youth Rugby for Gloucestershire RFU thinks that having smaller teams will not affect large groups, as instead of having one game being played at a time, there will be many games played at the same time.
He said: "The rule changes will help the development of young players in small chunks, they will be able to take on a new skill set each season."
The referee (who is also the coach) is encouraged to ensure each child gets at least one try in the game.
I fear that this will work well for the fast runners as they will get the ball, run and score the try, but it may lead to less passing, skill and 'team' play.
I was interested to find out how it would work in a tournament, being only four-aside (for Under-7s). Aldridge said that the tournaments and competitions will be near the end of the season, to make sure all children have fully understood the new rules.
However, I am still not clear how many games will be able to run at one time. Last season my brother's team were able to play three teams of seven at the last tournament. I am not sure how logistically this will work in the future. Aldridge suggests that due to the smaller pitches they will be able to run more games at one time therefore accommodating all the players – I assume therefore more coaches will be required to referee the games.
Gary and Shane both hope that the rules will make a huge impact, as there will be more involvement, greater enjoyment, more focus on the core skills (passing, scoring, tackle and support) and hope to encourage players to stay playing the game longer.
I hope the rules will bring greater enjoyment to the game and I hope that more children will want to play tag rugby. It is a great game which teaches you teamwork and keeps you very fit.
More information can be found on www.rfu.com/newrulesofplay