Premier 15s to have 35-minute halves

Laws adapted with Covid-19 tests un­af­ford­able in league No ob­jec­tion to ma­jor­ity of changes af­ter clubs con­sulted

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Kate Rowan

The 2020-21 Premier 15s will kick off on Satur­day but games will be played over two 35-minutes halves with adapted laws be­cause of Covid-19, the Rugby Foot­ball Union an­nounced last night. It is the first ma­jor sport to change its rules due to the pan­demic.

Premier 15s sides are ama­teur and the cash-strapped RFU can­not af­ford to test play­ers at this level.

There had been fears that the league might have to be post­poned due to out­breaks of Covid-19 on univer­sity cam­puses. A num­ber of sides in the leagues are drawn from the stu­dent pop­u­la­tion. Nev­er­the­less, last night’s an­nounce­ment is a boost for the women’s game in Eng­land.

Last week, The Daily Tele­graph re­vealed that fund­ing for Premier15s sides would be re­duced from £75,000 to £56,250 per club this sea­son. Al­though Al­lianz is to re­place crisp com­pany Tyrrells as ti­tle spon­sor, the re­duced fi­nances will re­main in place for this sea­son due to the RFU los­ing up to £138mil­lion be­cause of Covid-19.

The league will con­tinue with­out pro­mo­tion or rel­e­ga­tion with two new fran­chises – Ex­eter Chiefs and Sale Sharks – be­ing in­vited to join the Premier 15s for three sea­sons un­til 2023.

It costs Pre­mier­ship clubs £8,000 per week per club to test play­ers, way be­yond the fi­nan­cial ca­pac­ity of ama­teur women’s sides, hence the re­vised for­mat of games.

Other changes in­clude a play advantage law from a knock-on which will re­duce scrums by 75 per cent, free-kicks awarded to the op­po­si­tion for a for­ward pass which will re­duce face-to-face con­tact by six per cent and the re­moval of the op­tion for a scrum at a free-kick or penalty. That will cut face-to-face con­tact by seven per cent. There are also tweaks to re­duce mauls.

It is un­der­stood clubs were con­sulted on the law changes and none ob­jected to the ma­jor­ity of changes.

RFU head of women’s per­for­mance Nicky Pons­ford said: “I’d like to thank all clubs and de­part­ments who have worked to­gether to reach this point.”

In the first round of fix­tures Ex­eter travel to Glouces­ter-Hart­pury while Sale Sharks’ new sign­ing, vet­eran Eng­land fly half Katy Da­leyM­clean, will face for­mer club Lough­bor­ough Light­ning.

Sara­cens, who won the ti­tle in the di­vi­sion’s maiden two cam­paigns and sat top prior to the early end­ing of the 2019-20 Premier 15s sea­son, take on Worces­ter War­riors.

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