Rugby Illinois Releases Spring 2021 Competition Guidelines

Recognizing the importance of recreational outlets during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rugby Illinois Executive Committee has approved a return to play for Rugby Illinois member clubs, subject to the limitations outlined in this document.

These guidelines emerged through the work of the Rugby Illinois Covid Advisory Committee, composed of coaches, Rugby Illinois administrators, USA Rugby certified medical personnel, and the Chair of USA Youth and High School Rugby. During its deliberations, the CAC was guided by the following:

  • An urgent desire to resume youth rugby in Illinois, not only for the health of the sport, but for the physical and mental well-being of the players
  • A recognition that any return to play must be handled in a way that mitigates risk as much as possible while acknowledging that playing rugby during the COVID-19 pandemic has a level of risk that cannot be mitigated against.
  • All relevant guidelines and regulations from USA Rugby, World Rugby, Centers for Disease Control, and the Illinois Department of Public Health must be followed completely. While Rugby Illinois can be more cautious in its approach, its actions are constrained by those regulations and guidelines.

These Competition Guidelines are based on the recommendations of the CAC and were drafted by the Competition Committee in response to the Executive Committee’s decision to resume play. 

This document may be modified further in response to policy changes by the IDPH and other authorities. Any changes will be noted and communicated to coaches and players.

These law variations and guidelines will be in effect while the state of Illinois is under mitigation Level 4. Except as outlined below, World Rugby laws and regulations, as well as the Rugby Illinois Coaches and Players Handbook remain in force.

1. Law variations

Law 1: The Ground

Spectators: All clubs must follow current IDPH guidance with regard to spectator capacity, and changes to IDPH guidelines will be communicated to member clubs.  Each club may have spectators up to half the venue capacity. If a club does not plan to use its entire spectator allocation, that decision must be communicated to the Competition Committee and opposing club ahead of the match so that the additional spectator slots may be used. All spectators must maintain two meters of social distance from one another unless they are part of the same family group. All spectators must wear masks except for small children.

Unless there are space constraints, spectators should be at least 30 feet from all participants. Under no circumstances should they be closer than two meters to any participant.

It is the responsibility of each club to monitor and ensure spectator compliance. Failure to do so may result in a referral to the Disciplinary Committee and appropriate sanctions.

1.3 Technical Zone: To help maintain distancing, each team will be on its own touchline. Coaches must remain between the 10-meter dashed lines on their side of the pitch at all times, unless invited on to the pitch by the referee. Replacements must stand behind the ropes and be socially distanced by two meters. 

Each player must bring their own water bottle, and no water carriers are allowed on the pitch.

All other Technical Zone regulations remain in effect.

After the match: No socials or meal sharing. Players and coaches must immediately and separately leave the playing enclosure after the match ends.

Law 3: The team

The IDPH limits the number of participants for high-risk sports to 50 people, total. Each team may have no more than 24 team personnel present at the match, including players, coaches, touch judge, and trainers. In some instances (see Law 6: Referees) a team may be limited to 23 people. Any reserve or coach may act as a touch judge.

Contact: No huddles of any kind are allowed that bring participants together closer than six feet, including coaches issuing instructions to their players before, during, or after the match and players engaging in team chants before kickoff, during a stoppage, or halftime. 

3.1 Numbers: A team must have at least 10 players present to begin a 15s match. Each team must begin the match with the same number of players on the pitch. Teams should have the same number of players on the pitch unless a player is sent off or temporarily suspended. 

Exception: Due to low player numbers, coaches may agree before the match to play under World Rugby 10s or 7s variations. If that is the case, the referee must be informed and World Rugby 10s or 7s law variations are to be followed except as superceded by this document.

3.34 Rolling replacements: Rolling replacements are allowed with unlimited substitutions. Substitutions are only allowed when the ball is dead and with the approval of the referee. Replacements may not come on to the pitch until the referee allows them.

Players may play for multiple teams in a day, as long as they wear a fresh, unworn jersey in each match and remain under 60 minutes of daily playing time.

Law 4: Players’ clothing

4.2 Jerseys: Each player must have their own jersey for the match. Players may not wear a jersey that has previously been worn by another player during the same match or that has not been washed since its last use.

4.3 Masks: Coaches must wear an approved mask or a gaiter. All other participants — referees, players, and medical personnel — must wear an approved mask (see Section 5 below for mask requirements) from arrival to the pitch until leaving. Masks must be continually worn during play. 

4.3g Headgear: World Rugby-approved headgear may continue to be worn.

4.6 Dangerous or illegal clothing: If a mask comes off during play, the player must immediately replace it during open play, either with a spare in their pocket or a new one from their team’s touchline. If there is a stoppage, play should not be restarted until masks can be replaced. 

If a player continues to play without a mask, the referee will immediately stop play and award a scrum to the opposing team. If one or more players from both teams continue play without a mask, the referee will stop play and award a scrum to the team with possession. 

Referees may treat successive mask issues as repeated infringements as penalized as appropriate as specified in Law 9.

Sanction: Scrum

Law 5: Time

5.1 Match length: A match lasts no longer than 60 minutes. Multiple 10s or 7s matches may be played as long as total playing time remains under 60 minutes per player per day.

5.5 Stoppage time: The clock will remain running throughout the match except in the case of an injury stoppage lasting more than one minute and water breaks 

5.9 Water breaks: Near the halfway point of each half (15 and 45 minutes after kickoff), the referee will stop the clock for a water break. At that time, players should go to their touchlines to drink from their individual water bottles. Water carriers and shared water bottles are not allowed on the pitch. 

During the water break the ball should be disinfected or replaced by the host club. 

5.10 Referee ending match early: The referee has the power to end the match at any time if the referee sees consistent noncompliance with these guidelines.

Law 6: Match officials

All matches between high school clubs must be officiated by a referee with a current registration as a USA Rugby referee. Exceptions may be made at the discretion of the Competition Committee and CARFU-RS Referee Assignment Officer. Middle school clubs are encouraged to use referees with current USA Rugby referee registrations for their matches.

Masks: Referees must wear a mask at all times.

Additional personnel: The CARFU Referee Society may send a coach or observer to any match at its discretion. The CARFU Referee Society may assign a team of three to any match at its discretion or at the direction of Rugby Illinois. In such cases, each team will be allowed fewer than 24 people at its match.

Law 9: Foul play

Deliberate noncompliance with these guidelines: Any player, coach, or club official who, in the referee’s judgment is willfully and deliberately not complying with these guidelines will be disqualified from participation, removed from the playing enclosure, and referred to the Disciplinary Committee.

9.8-9 Repeated infringements: Successive violations of Law 4.3 (Masks) or any other regulation in this document may be treated as repeated infringements, including penalties, cautions, yellow cards, red cards, and abandoning the match.

Sanction: Penalty

9.11-24 Dangerous play: Any attempt to remove an opponent’s mask is dangerous play.

Sanction: Penalty and yellow card

Law 14: Tackle

14.5-7 Player responsibilities: Referees must strictly apply law 14.5-7 to ensure quick ball and discourage the formation of unplayable rucks.

Law 15: Ruck

15.5-9 Joining a ruck: Players may contest possession for the ball, but the contest should last no more than five seconds..

15.17 Ending a ruck: When the ball is available to the scrumhalf, the referee should immediately call “use it.” The ball must played away from the ruck within five seconds.

Sanction: Scrum

15.19 Unplayable ball: Referees should consider the ball unplayable if it is not available within a few seconds of the ruck being formed. 

Sanction: Scrum to the team moving forward, usually the attacking team

Law 16: Maul

For safety reasons, mauls are to be discouraged and therefore actively managed. A maul may not be formed from a lineout. 

16.14 During a maul: When a maul has stopped moving towards a goal line at any point in time, the referee must immediately call “use it.” If the maul continues to move up the field for more than five seconds, the referee must immediately call “use it.” If the ball does not immediately emerge from the maul at that point, a scrum will be awarded to the defending team.

Law 18: Touch, quick throw, and lineout

Lineouts may be contested.

18.37 Ending a lineout: Upon winning possession at a lineout, the ball must immediately be used. Lineout participants may not form a maul. 

Sanction: Free kick at the 15 meter line

Law 19: Scrum

19.10-12 Engagement: 

Scrums shall be contested and the ball must be played immediately once it is available. If a scrum is not completed successfully, a free kick will be awarded to the non-offending team. If no offense occurs, the team feeding the ball into the scrum will be awarded a free kick.

2. Discipline and sanctions

To ensure compliance with the 2021 Rugby Illinois Competition Guidelines, all violations of the guidelines will be referred to the Disciplinarian for further action. 

Spectator conduct

As stated above, clubs are responsible for the conduct of their spectators. Should the Disciplinary Committee find that spectators of a club have violated the guidelines, the following sanctions will be issued:

First offense: No spectators from that club allowed at any remaining matches played under these guidelines in 2021.

Club, coach, and player conduct

Any club official, coach, or player who is found by the Disciplinary Committee to be in violation of these guidelines will be suspended for the remainder of the season. If the Disciplinary Committee issues sanctions to a club member for more than one match during the season, that club will be suspended from play for the remainder of the season.

3. Rugby Illinois COVID-19 protocols

In addition to the requirements outlined in this document, all Rugby Illinois COVID-19 protocols are to be followed at all times by all club personnel, coaches, and players as detailed in the RIL COVID-19 Handbook and team protocols. 

In the event of a positive test by any coach, player, or club official that has been a close contact of any coach or player as defined by the Centers for Disease Control, the Competition Committee and Compliance Officer must be informed within 24 hours. The report must include the following:

  • Role of the person who tested positive (e.g., club official, player, coach),
  • Number of close contacts within the club and their roles,
  • Date of positive test.

In addition, all positive tests by club personnel, coaches, and players must be reported, by the individual or legal guardian of the person receiving a positive test, to the appropriate county or state authorities for the purposes of contact tracing. They must cooperate with all contract-tracing requirements from and efforts by county or state authorities.

If a team reports a positive case, that team will suspend all activities and gathering for 14 days from the positive test result. Teams that have recently played against a team with a positive case occurring within the infection window as defined by the CDC and IDPH will also suspend activities for 14 days.

For the purposes of Section 3, “team” is defined as a group of players who train or compete together.

4. Scheduling

Clubs will be grouped into geographic conferences and will only be able to play teams within their conference. Clubs will be responsible for scheduling matches but may ask the appropriate Division Coordinator for assistance. The following requirements must be observed when scheduling matches:

  • Matches must be scheduled at least six days apart. 
  • JV or second side matches should be scheduled on a different day from the varsity match. If that is not possible, such matches must be scheduled to begin no sooner than two hours after the kickoff of the first match. 
  • JV/second side players and coaches must warm up at least 30 feet from spectators and participants. If space constraints mean that there is no place for the second side to warm up, kickoff time for the second match should be adjusted back so that proper distancing can be maintained.
  • Subject to World Rugby regulations on daily playing time, players may participate in more than one match in a day.
  • Under IDPH Phase 4, geographic restrictions are in effect. The scope of those restrictions will be determined once the Competition Committee knows which clubs will be participating. For the purposes of geographic restrictions, a club is domiciled based on the location of their home pitch.

5. Mask requirements

All players, referees, and spectators must wear masks at all times. Coaches must wear either a gaiter or a mask at all times.

Masks must comply with World Rugby Law 4 and Regulation 12. Masks must loop over both ears and cannot wrap around the head or neck. Clubs are strongly encouraged to have a number of disposable masks on hand at each match. Players are encouraged to have a spare mask in their pockets during play.