IN SPORTS: Big 7s fi­nals cut to 14 min­utes

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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.

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