In readiness for the sport’s return on August 2, one of the law changes ratified by the Rugby Football League yesterday was the inclusion of the ‘six again’ rule.
Essentially giving a side six more tackles rather than a penalty for a ruck infringement, it has been used in Australia since they resumed action themselves at the end of May following the coronavirus shutdown.
Undoubtedly, it has quickened the pace of the game in the NRL and here the RFL has argued that – with fewer defenders interfering in the tackle area and less time in close contact – it will theoretically lower the risk of potentially spreading the virus.
Last understands the concept but remains unconvinced whether it will bring many benefits and could, in contrast, actually do more damage.
“They’re saying it’s a player-welfare point of view and there’ll be fewer numbers in the tackles etcetera etcetera,” he told The Yorkshire Post.
“But, because the game is speeding up a lot more, does it go the other way where it makes it more of a strain on players in terms of their welfare?
“You might get to the point where the timing of the tackles is wrong and you’ve seen knees get blown out in the NRL and all sorts happening because the speed of games has gone up another level again.
“It’s just made the collisions that are happening even quicker. I’m not so sure (on six again).
“The decision has been made and we’ll just get on with it but I’m not one for always following what the NRL does.”
Last, looking forward to finally taking charge of his first game having stepped up to replace the sacked Lee Radford just days before the sport was shutdown, feels Super League has historically paid too much reverence to its southern hemisphere counterpart.
“I think they are two completely different games and the finances in the two games are completely different, too,” he continued.
“And I appreciate and like the game that we have over here.
“Super League is different; the rucks maybe are a little slower but it means your creative players have to be a little bit more creative to break down the opposition and find a way to get that ascendancy in the ruck area.
“What I’ve found when watching the NRL – and I have watched every game since it’s been back on, eight games every weekend – some teams have adapted really well to six again and others haven’t.
“But there’s now certain player profiles – those big, bullocking front-rowers, for instance – that seem to be becoming less of a position in the game.
“It looks as though the smaller, more mobile, athletic middle is becoming more prominent and I don’t know if that is always the right thing.”
As the aesthetics of the sport change, Last – who is one of England head coach Shaun Wane’s new assistants – has warned how the NRL do not always get it right.
“I remember two years ago, we had some teams and some coaches here calling for the two referee system, saying that we needed it (like the NRL),” he said.
“But now, all of a sudden, that’s gone back to one (in the NRL) anyway and we’ve followed suit again.
“I’d prefer to stand on our own principles and what our own game stands for and market that the best way we possibly can.
“But if the powers-that-be are going down the NRL route is better for the fans to watch and safer for the players, then we’ll get on with it and adapt accordingly.”
Meanwhile, the RFL Board yesterday simplifed regulations regarding nationality and the limit on players who are not ‘federation trained’ by removiong the Quota Rule at all levels.
At Super League, then, the only restriction will be that clubs may employ a maximum of seven Non-Federation Trained players.
The Board supported the adjustment of the RFL’s Governing Body Endorsement Requirements following Brexit, meaning that from January 1 next year, new players with EU passports (other than UK passport holders or those with an existing right to work in the UK) will have to obtain a GBE to be signed by clubs.
Furthermore, the Board agreed that the RFL Reserves League – already cancelled this season – will be suspended for 2021.
Clubs may arrange friendlies and the suspension will be lifted ahead of 2022.
The Academy Competition will be extended to Under 19s in 2021, to ‘allow a more sustainable one-team structure below first team with the temporary suspension of Reserves’ Academy will be realigned to Under-18s for 2022, with the resumption of the Reserves.
The Scholarship Competition will be extended to Under-17s in 2021 only.