Grassroots rugby problem of lack of playing numbers solved

A grassroots rugby initiative will see club and school games reduced to 10-a-side if there are lack of playing numbers.

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One bold trial will see teams able to decrease in size to make sure games are played. Source: 1 NEWS

The new initiative to be launched soon by New Zealand Rugby, is called "game on" and aims to avoid matches being defaulted on Saturday.

Under game on, from next winter school or club teams can turn up with a minimum of 10 players a side and if agreed by their opposition and the referee, an official match can still be played.

Most unions will look to use this option in all grades, except for premiers and first 15.

“We're highly supportive of the trial, what it's doing is removing obstacles to enable games to happen and players to play,” Simon Devoy, head of participation at Auckland Rugby, said.

Unions are noticing a clear drop off around the pre-teen years as well as late teens and under 20 grades.

“What we do know is what we wanted 10, 15 years ago is not what our kids want now,” Devoy said.

In some smaller unions, defaults and a lack of numbers in general are a real issue.

“To gather and not have a game it's an absolute travesty so the game on principle is just going to be fantastic for communities,” Wairarapa Bush CEO Tony Hargood said.

The games next season can, if need be, be 40 to 80 minutes long, with rolling subs now across all grades with matches still counting for full official competition points.

Scrums can be uncontested, with front row numbers also an issue.

“Things move on, things change, rules change, if anything probably be good to simplify some of the rugby rules, wouldn't it?” Devoy said.

Junior changes will also be trialled, including no knock ons and dropping playing positions at certain levels.

Under 10 and under 11 grades will use 10 players a-side on smaller fields to improve involvement.