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IRL adopts NRL rule changes ahead of World Cup

The six-again rule is set to be introduced in competitions around the world after the International Rugby League board approved changes to align the official laws of the game with the NRL and Super League.

The changes are the first since the 2017 World Cup and ensure all nations at this year's World Cup in England will have the opportunity to play under the new rules before the tournament begins on October 23, with England hosting Samoa in Newcastle and Australia taking on Fiji in Hull.

England and Fiji are the first countries to announce a World Cup warm-up match, with the Bati meeting the host nation at Rochdale on October 15.

IRL match officials manager Stuart Cummings said it was important the game be played under almost identical rules around the world and it made sense to adopt the majority of the changes implemented by the NRL and Super League.

"If you have got your two major professional leagues, that are seen by people all around the world, making changes then it is important that we look to that as well," Cummings said.

"We have to make the international laws stand up for every country around the world that plays rugby league and obviously, with the NRL having all of their games televised, they can put in different rules than countries around the world that don't have access to a video referee.

"But I think it is positive that the game now right across the world has a set of laws that are almost identical."

The only NRL rules that were not recommended by the IRL laws advisory panel were:

  • two points for a field goal kicked 40 metres or further from the try line;
  • re-starting the tackle count instead of a penalty for an offside infringement; and
  • the use of an 18th man if three players fail HIAs or a player is ruled out of the rest of the match due to foul play.

"We will certainly be monitoring the effect that the two-point drop goal has on the game with a view that if it is having a positive impact we would look to bring it in in the future," Cummings said.

Cummings has been working on aligning the rules of the game for competitions across the world since joining the IRL in early 2020 but the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in both the NRL and Super League making a number of changes, with the six-again call being the most significant.

The NRL made further changes this season, including expanding the use of the six-again rule for offside infringements and the two-point field goal, while the 18th man was introduced in April after Cronulla were left with no players on the interchange for the entire second half against Parramatta.

The World Cup will be refereed under the new rules and Cummins said all competing nations now had almost six months to prepare.

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"The Rugby League World Cup is at the end of the year and we have a lead in now where the countries taking part will know the laws that they will be playing under," he said.

"I have been involved in World Cups from 1995 through to 2013 and a couple of weeks before hand we were signing off on laws and having meetings with the coaches to explain referee interpretations so this is a really big lead-in for all the countries rather than a case of finding out a week before the World Cup."


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