2022 Small Blacks Changes

There are some exciting changes coming to Small Blacks Rugby in your Provincial Union.

These changes are to be phased in over the next three years, and include:

  • Under 6s and Under 7s playing on a quarter field
  • Under 8s moving to 7 a side games
  • Removing scrums and lineouts for Under 8s.

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) will also be running trials with Provincial Unions to understand the benefits of smaller-sided, longer duration games with older age groups, to compliment the shift made in 2020 for Under 11s to 10-a-side rugby. 


UP TO  2021



Under 6s 

Rippa Rugby 


½ Field 

Change to ¼ Field 


Under 7s

Rippa Rugby 


½ Field 

Change to ¼ Field 

By 2023, if not earlier as determined by Provincial Union

Under 8s 

Tackle Rugby 


½ Field 

Line outs 


Change to ¼ Field 


Tackles below the Sternum (tummy tackle) 

Deferring Scrum and Lineout until U9s 

By 2024, if not earlier as determined by Provincial Union


Over the past 12 months, NZR have been running trials in six Provincial Unions with Under 6s to Under 8s around reduced field size, reduced numbers, and a focus on tackle-only. The results of these trials show an enhanced quality of experience for the players, and increased support for players as they start to learn new skills, such as tackling and being tackled.

The new changes will provide: 

  • Better development experiences for players as the begin and learn rugby. 
  • Better engagement opportunities. Smaller teams means more opportunities to develop those skills and become better rugby players. These changes mean more triesmore touches of the ball and more opportunities to develop their skills 
  • More coachable moments for coaches as they are dealing with less complexity and fewer numbers (at Under 8s) during a key transition. 
  • Less disruption to teams as numbers remain the same from Under 7s to Under 8s.

The research 

NZR has been examining the benefits of smaller sided games for our Small Blacks longer for the past three years. This has been supported by global sports research in sports such as football, ice hockey, and rugby league, and closer to home with netball and cricket.  

NZR have also been adopting lessons from the Rugby Football Union, who have invested significantly in this space in the last ten years. Their research focused on the results around Under 9s and concluded that the game needed to be tailored to meet young players' physical, emotional, and cognitive development needs, by prioritising skills such as running, tackling, passing and evading over more structured skills such as Lineouts and Scrums, which could be introduced in older age groups. 

Playing by the rules: A developmentally appropriate introduction to rugby union | University of Exeter research

In summary, smaller-sided games provide better development and engagement opportunities, whilst also keeping games fun and challenging.  

When will these be implemented? 

The changes will be introduced over the next three years for Under 6s to Under 8s. This is necessary to provide Provincial Unions to adjust to the new changes and ensure that current age cohorts do not go backwards in progression. The Under 6s changes will be mandatory from 2022, whereas Under 8s changes can be implemented immediately or delayed until 2024 to enable those already playing in existing age groups to maintain their current progression.  

When will the EDSLVs be reviewed? 

The EDSLVs for Small Blacks will be reviewed over the next three years, as they are implemented by Provincial Unions. 

The review will take a qualitative and quantitative approach, taking into consideration game footage, key metrics, and participant feedback.

Share your feedback

If you have any feedback regarding the 2022 Small Blacks changes, please send us an email at participation@nzrugby.co.nz.