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 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.