IN SPORTS: Big 7s finals cut to 14 minutes
The Cup finals of the 2016/17 World Sevens Series will be for 14 minutes and not 20. The changes have been confirmed by World Rugby indicating that there’ll be no more marathon 7s finals starting from next month in Dubai and South Africa.
With injuries more prevalent in the second half of finals during the World Sevens Series tournaments, with those deciders going for 20 minutes instead of the usual 14, the governing body has opted to keep the games the usual seven minutes a half.
As well as that change for Sevens, World Rugby has introduced a number of minor changes, including adopting one of Super Rugby’s recent law changes.
If a penalty is kicked into touch after full-time without touching another player, teams will be allowed to take their lineout, with play continuing until the ball goes dead.
Contact with the head in rugby will be dealt with harshly by the game officials.
Other tweaks include allowing team captains to pick the most beneficial penalty spot when an opponent infringes during an advantage period, uncontested scrums requiring eight players on each team and penalty tries automatically being worth seven points.
Sevens regulations have also been changed, with strict time limits to be introduced for teams to prepare for set piece.
Vodafone Fijian 7s interim coach Naca Cawanibuka is aware of the changes and the need for players to adapt to it. The amendments, which will be introduced from January 1, 2017 in the Southern Hemisphere, come after a World Rugby conference that also included a recommendation for referees to crack down on head contact, with an increase in concern over concussions.
The past few years have seen increasing concerns regarding the potential impacts of concussion, with new forms of in-game head injury assessment introduced to try to prevent players returning to action too quickly when they have suffered a damaging blow in what is, at Test level, an increasingly aggressive contact sport.
World Rugby said it had instructed match officials to be strict when it came to tackles, charges, strikes or kicks that make contact above the shoulder line and to favour firm sanctions for offenders, up to and including red cards for severe examples.
World Rugby match officials’ selection committee chairman Anthony Buchanan says, “World Rugby’s number one priority is player welfare and the laws of the game clearly state that the necks and heads of players are sacrosanct. When it comes to foul play, the game is cleaner now than ever before but referees must constantly be alert to head-high hits.
By taking this strong approach, we are saying to players that tackling an opponent above the shoulder line will not go unpunished.
In addition, while striking or kicking an opponent is never acceptable, it is a more serious offence when it involves contact with the head or neck.”
He added: “Even ball-carriers must be careful that they fend off tacklers legally and do not strike opponents with forearms or elbows.”
Vodafone Fijian 7s playmaker Kitione Taliga to play in Dubai next month.