International Rugby League approves changes to Laws ahead of RLWC2021

  • May 3, 2021

29 April 2021

International Rugby League approves changes to Laws ahead of RLWC2021

The Board of International Rugby League (IRL) has approved the recommended changes to the international Laws of the Game as proposed by the Laws Advisory Group (LAG). The group, which is chaired by IRL Match Official Manager Stuart Cummings includes members from the Australian Rugby League Commission, the Rugby Football League, Asia Pacific Rugby League and European Rugby League.

LAG has been working to harmonise the Laws for competitions around the world which has included a full examination of different laws, interpretations and terminology. The Laws, which have now been agreed and approved for adoption include the following changes:

20:40 Kick – a ball kicked in general play from inside the 20-metre area into touch inside the opponents 40-metre area will result in a tap re-start for the kicking team.

Ball steal – a penalty will be awarded when more than two players are involved in the tackle and the ball is stolen, however if the ball-carrier is attempting to ground the ball to score a try, the ball steal is permitted.

Lateral position of scrums – The team with the loose head and feed may choose to set a scrum in-field 10 metres, 20 metres or centre field in line with the original infringement.

Ball in touch – when the ball or a player carrying the ball goes into touch, the opponents will re-start play with a play the ball at either 10 metres, 20 metres or centre field, in line with the point of entry.

Infringements at the play the ball – where defenders deliberately infringe to slow the play down, the tackle count will be re-set to zero.

Illegal play the ball – in the case of an illegal play the ball the ball will be handed over to the opponents who will re-start with a play the ball.

Players breaking early from the scrum – in the event of players breaking early from a scrum, a full penalty will be awarded. The non-offending team can choose to re-set the scrum.

Mutual infringement – if the referee deems that both teams have infringed at the same time, play will re-start from the previous play the ball.

In addition to the approval of the International Laws of the Game, the Board has also approved several specific conditions of play which will apply to RLWC2021. These are:

Re-start clock – the re-start clock will be set for scrums and drop-outs, play will re-start within 30 seconds of the award of a scrum and 25 seconds of a drop-out.

Time off – the clock will stop for all stoppages in the final 5 minutes of the game and after 1 minute and 20 seconds if a conversion or penalty attempt has not been completed.

Time stops after a goal-kick – the clock will automatically stop for 30 seconds after attempts at goal. Play will re-start when the clock reaches zero.

Captain’s Challenge – each team will have one opportunity for the captain to challenge the referee’s decision. If successful, they will retain their challenge.

For full details see

Cummings commented upon the changes: “This has been a long and complicated process, but we have an excellent outcome and now the International Laws can be applied uniformly. I would like to thank all the members of LAG and the many other contributors who worked collaboratively to reach this outcome.”

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Niel Wood


This is the year of the Rugby League World Cup 2021

 The Rugby League World Cup is taking place between the 23 October – 27 November this autumn and is the pinnacle of international Rugby League, globally contested every four years. RLWC2021 will be a breakthrough moment in the tournament’s history with the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions being staged together for the first time.

The three tournaments will take place in 21 venues across 18 host towns and cities in England. Both the women’s and wheelchair competitions will be contested by two groups of four teams, whilst the men’s tournament will see 16 teams compete across four groups.

RLWC2021 will be the most visible Rugby League event in history with all 61 games in the men’s, women’s and wheelchair competitions being broadcast live on the BBC.

Mission: Delivering the biggest and best ever Rugby League World Cup.

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