A number of leading forwards have urged the NRL competition committee to retain the number of interchanges at eight per team amid fears increased fatigue could result in a higher injury toll.
The competition committee will meet on Tuesday to consider a reduction in interchanges from eight to six and increased penalties for crusher tackles and late shots on kickers.
Some believe that further reducing the number of interchanges to six per team will open up the game more and enable attacking players to take advantage of tiring defences but there is a concern it could also lead to more blowout scorelines.
However, NRL.com has recently spoken to a number of players likely to be effected by a reduction and Rabbitohs props George and Thomas Burgess and Dragons second-rower Tyson Frizell believe greater fatigue will increase the risk of injuries.
"If you make people more tired the injury rate is going to increase because when people get tired they get a bit lazy and you are more open to getting an injury, or people do a lazy hit on someone and that's when they get injured," Tom Burgess said.
"When you are more tired you can't protect yourself as much. For me, I like the subs where it is now. I preferred it when it went down to eight because as a middle you don't want to be coming on and off but I think it should stay how it is."
Competition Committee to consider clamping down on crusher tackles
George Burgess said there was no need for change as most coaches were using their full complement of interchanges now.
If the interchange dropped to six and a team was hit by injuries they may have to play with less than 13 players, as North Queensland did for the final 12 minutes of their round 13 match against Manly after Cowboys coach Paul Green used all before losing Jordan McLean with a hamstring injury.
"I think we are at a good number right now," George Burgess said. "We adjusted when they changed it to eight and I think every club now is using those eight subs every game.
"When it was 10 we would always keep one in the back pocket for an injury but I think where it is at now everyone is using them and they are useful so it's not broken."
Frizell also said player welfare should be the first consideration before any rule change is agreed to and he called for players to have input.
"I don't know what benefits we're going to get," Frizell said. "We break it down to six and then people will say to go down to four.
"It's tough on players, people want to see a better and faster game but player welfare is what you need to look out for. I think eight's perfect, in Tests it's 10, and there's plenty of fatigue out there at the moment.
"It doesn't really factor into me, I can play 80 minutes as an edge player, but I'm not sure what benefits they're going to see out of the suggested changes."
NRL head of elite football Graham Annesley said the competition committee had decided to defer a decision on the number of interchanges at their meeting at the end of last season because of the impact that stoppages caused by high penalty counts was having.
Graham Annesley weekly football briefing – Round 14
Annesley said the committee would be presented with statistical data from the first half of this season.
"We want to present those findings and we want to have a discussion about interchange and whether it is appropriate or whether it needs any further refinement and if it does when that could happen," he said.
"It could well be that there is no change whatsoever."
Regardless of what the competition committee decides, there will be no change to the interchange this season.
However, a crackdown on crusher tackles and late shots could be introduced as soon as the next round of Telstra Premiership matches.
Annesley met with NRL chief executive Todd Greenberg on Monday to discuss player safety concerns after a number of recent incidents, including alleged crusher tackles by Cronulla prop Andrew Fifita and Newcastle's Mitch Barnett, which attracted charges from the match review committee.
Barnett faces a ban of up to five matches, while Fifita will miss three matches if he unsuccessfully challenges a grade two dangerous contact charge at the NRL judiciary in a desperate bid to play for Tonga in Saturday night's Oceania Cup clash with New Zealand at Mt Smart Stadium.
"We have looked at some concerning trends that are starting to emerge and that is crusher tackles and also late hits, primarily on kickers but also in general play," Annesley said.
"One of the things that we will doing [on Tuesday] is having a discussion with the competition committee about how we address some of these issues in our game.
"We can look at a policy direction to the match review committee that they should assess these incidents harder in terms of grading. We can also look at the actual demerit points associated with some of these incidents and whether they need to be stiffened which we have done as a regular part of the review process of the judiciary in past years.
"We really think we need to look long and hard at this to ensure we are providing as safe an environment as possible for players. It is a physical game, it is a body contact game and there are certain risks associated with it but we certainly don't need additional risks that can be avoided."
Among those on the competition committee are Greenberg, Annesley, Kangaroos coach Mal Meninga, former premiership winning coach John Lang, ex-Australian captain Darren Lockyer, RLPA GM of player relations Clint Newton and ARL commissioner Wayne Pearce.