A school has been disqualified from the National U18 Schools Vase following a breach of the half game rule.
The breach took place at the quarter final stage of the competition and is alleged to have been brought to the attention of the RFU by the losing side upon video review of the game, resulting in the winning side being disqualified from the competition and the losing side taking their place in the semi final lineup. Sources close to the breach have indicated that it involved a player playing 32 minutes rather than the 35 minutes of play required (at U18 level each half is 35 minutes long). It is customary for many schools when implementing the rule to bring players on and off in order to maintain a balance to the side, as in this case, rather than swapping six or seven players all at once at half time.
An England Age-Grade Rugby spokesperson said of the breach: “The disqualification, made by the Competition Disputes Committee and upheld by an independent Appeal Panel, followed a quarter final game in the National School U18 Vase where the offending school was evidenced not giving a player half the available game time required by regulation.”
DISCIPLINE: Unfortunately there has been a disqualification in the National Schools U18 competition following a breach of the Half Game rule.
The half game rule, a rule introduced in New Zealand in 2016, was introduced into regulation at the start of this season, following a pilot in 2017/18 and a voluntary implementation in 2018/19. It states that all players in a matchday squad must play at least half of any given game, or in the case of a condensed tournament such as a 7s tournament or the St Joseph’s Festival, half the playing minutes. It was introduced across all age grades (U18 and below) in clubs, schools, and colleges.
The Age Grade Rugby spokesperson explained that the Half Game rule “was introduced to increase player enjoyment and therefore player retention across all the Age Grade game in clubs, schools and colleges. Research from the University of Essex showed that players who played for at least half a game were 6 times more likely to enjoy rugby that those who did not. Furthermore, it is evidenced that those who enjoy playing a sport are more likely to continue to participate.”
“This Regulation is a recommendation from the RFU’s U19 Commission which investigated how to address drop out of 18-year-old players and has been communicated extensively to those involved in the Age Grade Game.”
As a principle the regulation has been well received, though questions have been raised as to whether in knockout competitions squad sizes may end up reduced thus denying, rather than helping, more players get game time in big events, and whether it is best practice for a strong side resting their stronger players in a weaker fixture, to then have to bring on their stronger players when the game is already won.
According to the spokesperson there has been a “positive overall reaction” to the rule and that “more importantly from the players who have reported back via the National Rugby Survey with 85% across all age groups reporting that playing half a game is important to them.”
It was explained however explained that “as with all Regulations, we are committed to monitor and evaluate the impact of Half Game and to continue to work with players, coaches and teachers in doing this.”
The full appeal judgement can be see here: RFU Disciplinary Panel Judgement, 20th January 2020.
The U18 Vase sits is the fourth tier of the National Schools U18 competitions, with the Champions Trophy, Schools Cup, and Schools Plate sitting above it, and the Schools Bowl below.
The final this year will take place at Twickenham Stadium on Thursday 19th March alongside the U15 final as well as the U18 and U15 Schools Cup finals. Last year the tournament was won by Samuel Whitbread Academy, who enjoyed success at both U18 and U15 level, while in 2018 it was Langley that stormed through to the final scoring a minimum of forty points in every game.
The revised semi final line up for this year’s tournament reads as follows
Langley (Midlands A) v Newcastle School for Boys (North A)
Sutton Valence (London & South East B) v Wellington School (South West A)
For further information on the Half Game Rule and the U18 Schools Vase, follow the links below: