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Red card law trial returns for The Rugby Championship

Ten days out from the opening of The Rugby Championship Tests, SANZAAR have approved the re-introduction of the 20-minute Red Card law trial for the 2022 tournament.

Failed to be approved by World Rugby ahead of the July internationals this year, the re-introduction in the Rugby Championship is a continuation of the trial that has so far been conducted throughout Super Rugby in 2020, 2021 and 2022 as well as the 2021 Rugby Championship.

The law variation means any player sent from the field with a red card can be replaced by another player after 20-minutes. The variation was introduced in 2020 as a way to reduce the impact a red card has on a game as a spectacle.

In a statement, SANZAAR said that all four national unions were completely behind the extension of the trial and wanted to retain the "integrity of international matches" by retaining a 15-man contest wherever possible.

"This is a great decision for The Rugby Championship and follows on from its application in Super Rugby," SANZAAR CEO Brendan Morris said. "All the SANZAAR national unions are fully behind the extension of the red-card law trail. As a group we firmly believe the integrity of international matches is very important and that wherever possible matches must be a contest of fifteen versus fifteen.

"Within the context of the games' laws, SANZAAR believes that a 20-minute Red Card allows for a significant deterrent to deliberate acts of foul play, while it also protects the contest of fifteen on fifteen, which is what our unions, broadcasters and fans are telling us is important."

The announcement comes just days after it was reported more than 100 former players were taking legal action against World Rugby and the national governing bodies of England and Wales over what they believe was a failure to protect them from permanent injury caused by repeated concussions.

Acknowledging the issue faced within rugby around head-contact, SANZAAR announced they would be conducting formal research throughout the Championship to ensure the law variation could become a permanent fixture within the game.

"SANZAAR stands alongside World Rugby's important work on managing foul play and player welfare and will conduct a formal research project across the 2022 TRC period with all comparative findings to be shared with World Rugby at the end of the season," Morris said. "The aim is to gather the necessary information that allows the 20-minute red card trial to be accepted into the full laws of the game in the future."

In a boon for the competition, the 2022 Championship is the first in over two years that it will be played across all four member nations, it will also see the introduction of mini-tours.

In a first, the competition will do away with the previous home and away format instead the teams will now play on a two-match tour and host a two-match tour, with Australia and New Zealand touring Argentina and South Africa respectively to open the tournament.

"This season we are very excited to be bringing international rugby back to fans across all of our home territories for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic with an innovative new mini-tours format as we are committed to exploring ways to continually improve the competition."