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The National Rugby League has today outlined a series of guidelines aimed at protecting players from late tackles targeting the legs.

NRL Director of Football Operations, Mr Nathan McGuirk, today issued all NRL Clubs with the guidelines that will come into effect from today in all Telstra Premiership and Toyota Cup matches

- Referees are asked to be more vigilant on their held call when an attacking player is being held up by a defender/s in an upright position and he is deemed to be in a vulnerable position.

If a player offloads the ball at the same time as the referee calls held, the football will be returned to him and he will be asked to play the ball on the mark where held was called by the referee. (This is an interpretation change, not a rule change)

If in the opinion of the referee a player forcefully spears his body at an opponent’s leg/s in a “Dangerous” manner he will be penalised by the referee.

A player may face further action by the NRL Match Review Committee if he forcefully spears his body in a “Dangerous” manner at an opponent’s leg/s whilst an opponent is deemed to be in a vulnerable position (being held in a tackle by other defending players)

“Dangerous” in circumstances detailed above is defined as contact that involved an unacceptable risk of injury to the opposing player.

“The key points here are that we do not expect to see referees over-react to these changes, nor do we expect the guidelines to have a noticeable impact on the way the game is played,” Mr McGuirk said.

“This is something we have been monitoring for some time and while we are always reluctant to change rules mid-season, our clear priority is the safety of all players and these are positive steps to prevent this type of tackle becoming an issue in the future.”

NRL Referees Coach Stuart Raper said the guidelines would have the support of players and fans.

“These measures are not designed to stop a player tackling around the legs, but it does give referees the ability to act when there is clearly a potential for a dangerous situation to develop,” he said.

“Player safety is paramount to the success of our game and it is important we continue to monitor any developments that impact on players’ safety.”