New Zealand community rugby to introduce 20-minute red card for next two seasons

Community rugby in New Zealand is set to trial a 20-minute red card replacement for the 2024 and 2025 seasons.

Supported by the 26 Provincial Unions, New Zealand Rugby (NZR) has confirmed that the innovation will apply to all levels of the community game in New Zealand, including club and school.

NZR General Manager Community Rugby Steve Lancaster said the decision affirmed the ongoing commitment to safety and positive player experiences at the grassroots. 

“This is the first community trial for this innovation anywhere in the world and we’re proud that New Zealand continues to lead in finding ways to create a safer game that our participants love to play.

“We believe that this innovation suitably deals with the offending player, whilst also preserving the competition and experience for teams, coaches, spectators and referees.” 

NZR first introduced the 20-minute red card to Super Rugby in 2020 to appropriately manage foul play without impacting the integrity of the match.

Since then, it has successfully featured in DHL Super Rugby Pacific, Sky Super Rugby Aupiki and the Lipovitan-D Rugby Championship.

Lancaster added that alignment across the professional and community games was a strength of New Zealand rugby.

“We know our fans and community participants want a game that’s exciting and puts them at the centre of decision making. Our view is that we can continue to trial these types of innovations and contribute to the overall global evolution of the game.” 

The game innovation will see a player who has received a Red Card replaced after 20 minutes by another player.  If a player receives a second Yellow Card which equates to an automatic Red Card, after a further 20 minutes, the Red Carded player can be replaced.

Four community rugby game innovations will now feature for the next two seasons.

After successful trials in 2023, NZR confirmed in December last year that the reduced tackle height to below the sternum, a maximum scrum push for all community rugby (excluding senior premier club rugby) and halfback offside at the scrum would all be implemented.

2024 and 2025 community rugby game innovations:

1. Reduced tackle height to below the sternum targeting the belly area for all community rugby grades

The first tackler must tackle below the sternum and target the belly area. The second tackler can legally tackle below the shoulders in accordance with current rugby law.

2. Halfback offside at scrum for all community rugby grades

The halfback of the team that has not won possession in a scrum, must not advance past the tunnel until the scrum has ended.  If they opt to stay in a position in front of their Number-8’s feet, they must stay within 1m of the scrum.

3. Maximum 1.5 metre scrum push for all community rugby, excluding senior premier club rugby grades

The maximum push of any scrum is limited to 1.5 metres, unless the scrum is within 5 metres of the goal line. Please note: Small Blacks rugby at U12 and U13s is already limited to a maximum 0.5 metre scrum push and Teenage rugby is limited to a maximum 1.5 metre scrum push irrespective of location on the field.

4. Red card replacement

If a player receives a Red Card, they may be replaced after 20 minutes by another player.