There have been no scrums in rugby league since the coronavirus pandemic began last year, but it was hoped players would begin packing down again next term.
Earlier this month, the RFL’s laws committee and board backed the return of scrums in 2022, if 85 per cent of players across the top two divisions had been double vaccinated by December 31.
But the governing body today (Thursday) confirmed that target has not been met in either Betfred Super League (80.66 per cent of players double vaccinated) or the Championship (81.71 per cent).
The board has now delayed a final decision until the end of January to “allow more time for vaccination rates to increase and to assess the impact of the Omicron variant”.
Boxing Day games - including Leeds Rhinos’ clash with Wakefield Trinity - will be played without scrums.
An RFL statement said: “The remaining minority of players who have yet to receive any vaccination should be advised that their decisions are having a material impact on all others and on the nature of the 2022 competitions, given the majority support of players and coaches for the return of scrums if possible – which has been endorsed in the 2021 RFL supporters’ survey.
“All players should be encouraged to have a booster jab as soon as possible, both for their own health, that of other players in the competition and for the effective running of the competitions.”
The RFL Board will review the position throughout January and the sport’s chief regulatory officer Karen Moorhouse said: “The RFL board share the view of the laws committee and the wider sport that the return of scrums is desirable, especially with a view to the World Cups in England at the end of 2022.
“However, we have to balance this with the potential risk of transmission in scrums and of scrums leading to individuals having to isolate as close contacts and the consequential impact on the ability of clubs to field teams.
“Currently everyone in a scrum would be deemed a close contact and therefore if there was a positive case within 48 hours of a match, any unvaccinated players who had been in a scrum with the positive individual would be required to isolate for 10 days. “
Moorhouse added: “In addition, the emergence of the Omicron variant since the last laws committee meeting has clearly changed the landscape in terms of transmissibility and the efficacy of double vaccinations, increasing the risk of positive cases and leading to a new focus on the importance of booster jabs.
“We have not mandated vaccination, but we have worked with clubs to encourage their players to do their part, both for the sport and in the national battle against Covid-19.
“Considerable progress has been made over the last couple of months, with some clubs setting an outstanding lead in terms of vaccination rates, and now boosters.
“We recognise this delay is far from ideal for coaches and players as they prepare for the 2022 season with ongoing uncertainty, but in a rapidly changing landscape this is the appropriate and responsible course of action as things stand.”