Leeds Rhinos boss reckons law changes will 'take some getting used to' but predicts positive response

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Law changes for the new season will “take some getting used to”, but should help games flow, according to Leeds Rhinos coach Rohan Smith.

Penalties have replaced set restarts for infringements within 40 metres of the team in possession’s line and referees will place an emphasis on tidying up the ruck area. Players are now expected to make a genuine attempt to play the ball with a foot, rather than simply stepping over it and there will be a crack down on flops and hands on the ball.

The changes were implemented for the first time in pre-season matches played over Christmas, including Rhinos’ Boxing Day win against Wakefield Trinity. Smith said: “I went to watch Bradford against Halifax [on Christmas Eve] and I thought - on a small pitch, in the mud with the rain coming in sideways - the game actually flowed better than the conditions and time of year the surface would have you anticipate.

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Rhinos coach Rohan Smith. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.Rhinos coach Rohan Smith. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.
Rhinos coach Rohan Smith. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

“On Boxing Day, there were patches where it may have slipped into old habits, but overall I thought the play-the-ball turnovers were correct, the flops were correct. What they have asked the referees to do is just referee.”

Smith stressed: “It’s not actually new rules and I thought that aspect of the officiating was done well. It will take some getting used to and it’ll probably cause some games to be a little stop-start. I thought there were some penalties blown for things that probably shouldn’t have been, but [in terms of] the actual ruck sort of stuff, the game flowed.”

The Leeds boss reckons fans will also appreciate the change in the way matches are controlled. He added: “You can usually tell by the crowd; the crowd weren’t agitated by how long the wrestle was going on for, or the niggle or the play-the-ball being a mess. It was quite well controlled I thought.”