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Page last updated at 17:23 GMT, Thursday, 27 August 2009 18:23 UK

Premiership adopts 23-man squads

Gethin Jenkins
The Lions were forced into uncontested scrums against South Africa

The Guinness Premiership will feature 23-man match-day squads including three front-row replacements this season in a bid to avoid uncontested scrums.

The Rugby Football Union and Premier Rugby, the umbrella group for the top-flight clubs, have adopted the new International Rugby Board amendment.

If all suitable replacements have been used and another front-row injury occurs, a team will be reduced to 14.

The move is designed to penalise sides that force uncontested scrums.

"There have been allegations in the past of whether an injury was real or not, and we have been working to clear that up," said Premier Rugby's chief executive Mark McCafferty.

"Three of the eight players on the bench have to be front-row forwards.

"If a game does go uncontested then that team will be playing with 14 men - there will be no replacement allowed. There is a quite a disincentive there.

"We're pushing for that rule to be extended into other competitions, such as Europe and Anglo-Welsh competitions."

The move has also been adopted by the Top 14 in France after a successful trial, which saw a dramatic reduction with just two uncontested scrums from 994 matches in the top three divisions.

The IRB confirmed it will "monitor the implementation of the amended law," which will only apply in domestic rugby to begin with.

The RFU has not enforced the eight-man replacement rule for the Championship, the new name for the league below the Premiership, however, but the "man off" rule - when a team is reduced to 14 players if they force uncontested scrums - will apply.

"We have decided to keep the number of replacements the same as we need to ensure that clubs have enough front-row players to fulfil their fixtures," said Terry Burwell, the RFU's Director of Tournaments and Competitions.

But for domestic cup competitions for teams in National League Two downwards, eight replacements may be employed, and the "man off" rule will also apply.

"At cup level, when it's a one-off game, we feel that increasing replacement front-row players is manageable for clubs and will reduce uncontested scrums in such important matches," Burwell added.


The British and Irish Lions were forced into uncontested scrums in their second Test defeat against South Africa this summer after losing both props, Gethin Jenkins and Adam Jones, to injury at the same time, with Andrew Sheridan the only specialist on the bench.

Head coach Ian McGeechan later said he felt the uncontested scrums hindered his side.

There have been calls in the past for all scrums to be uncontested after Leicester prop Matt Hampson was paralysed during scrum practice with England Under-21s in 2006.

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see also
RFU looks into uncontested scrums
30 Aug 06 |  English
South Africa 28-25 Lions
27 Jun 09 |  Rugby Union
Premiership scrum change on hold
31 Aug 06 |  English
Ruddock rues Warriors' mistakes
22 Oct 07 |  Worcester
Bees fail with relegation appeal
24 Jun 08 |  Rugby Union

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