THE number of substitutions during matches will be reduced from 12 to 10 from next season, the Rugby Football League have announced.
Clubs will still have four players on the replacements bench but coaches will have to make more use of their 17-man squad.
The move is designed to restore some of the old-fashioned virtues of the rugby league forward. It will mean more work for some and could spell the end for front rowers who have been used in short spells to make an impact from the bench.
It is among a number of rule changes introduced by a committee of past and present players, coaches and administrators with the intention of bringing uniformity across the game.
The 10-interchange policy is already in use in Australia’s National Rugby League and will now become part of international law.
The changes will apply to all domestic competitions, including Super League and the Championship, and will take effect from Boxing Day, when there are three all-Super League friendlies.
In other notable changes, players in possession who come into contact with the corner flag during general play will no longer be deemed to be in touch and players will be allowed to drop-kick for goal when taking conversion attempts.
In addition, referees will be told to show more leniency to players who carry on playing after failing to hear their shout of “held”. Instead of being penalised, the players will be allowed to go back and play the ball.
RFL chief executive Nigel Wood (pictured) said: “There are three different rules at the moment and it is a matter of tidying them up.”
Wood confirmed that the League have abandoned plans for England to tour down under in 2012 and will instead play a series of internationals in the northern hemisphere.
The Four Nations Series, hailed by Wood as an outstanding success this year, will not return until 2014 and the RFL’s proposals for a tour have been thwarted by the Australians’ pledge to give their players an extended close season to prepare for the 2013 World Cup in Europe.
Wood said a proposal to play the Pacific nations, such as Fiji and Papua and New Guinea, on a tour proved to be “not practical or economic”.
The news will disappoint England coach Steve McNamara in his attempts to build on the progress made this year, but the RFL say they are close to unveiling a 22-month international programme that will provide the national team with meaningful matches right up to the World Cup in the autumn of 2013.
“The international programme is taking shape,” said Wood, who is hoping the commission that is being formed to run the game in Australia will be less insular when it comes to the world-wide game.
“The RFL’s policy on the primacy of international football is not necessarily shared by everyone around the world.
“The NRL have issues of their own to work through but hopefully the new administration will have a more enlightened attitude.”