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Half a Game for all

  • New half a game rule introduced
  • Half Game has worked for Stoke-on-Trent RUFC

The half game rule becomes a regulation and compulsory for all U18s in clubs, schools, colleges, representative pathways and Academy activities from next season following a trial in 2017-18 and implementation in 2018-19. This will ensure that all players in a match-day squad play at least half a game.

Young players have been the driving force for the introduction of the Half Game Regulation, while University of Essex research shows that players who regularly play half a game or more report more enjoyment, self-esteem and rugby-playing competence. They are also six times more likely to enjoy playing rugby than those who don’t.

The RFU will be providing regular information to help everyone to prepare for the 2019-20 season and is asking competition organisers to make sure the Half Game Regulation is incorporated jn next season’s rules for festivals, tournaments and competitions.

Stoke’s story

This is how the Half Game has worked for Stoke-on-Trent RUFC. Their U15s were on the verge of folding in January 2018, with only 12 registered players, which included two U14s.

The players and parents were intent on actively encouraging new members to join and says club chairman Steve Maskrey: ”It was a fine ambition, but in reality, at an age when players traditionally begin to fall away from the game, it was going to be at best an uphill battle.”

It was a battle they seem to have won, thanks to giving every player real game time.

The players targeted schoolfriends who had enjoyed a brief taste of rugby in curriculum time but had never felt ‘good enough’ to try out at a club. Some other players who had previously played for other sides but had, for a variety of reasons, fallen out of love with the game, were convinced that the experience they would have would be different to their last.

“The side decided that it would not adopt a ‘you must train in order to play’ approach, given that this usually punished the players when perhaps it was their parents who could not get the lads along to the club. Training was fun, attendance grew and soon most of the side would train if they possibly could.

“Matches were sometimes won and sometimes lost… sometimes heavily. However, the lads kept on coming. They were provided with an old set of shirts and asked to be responsible for their own kit. They came to training and games in them and by the end of the season we had grown from 12 to 20 in number.”

A sponsor was found for the team, and then another. A new set of shirts, socks and polo tops for after the game were sourced and distributed.

Growing and gaining results

“As U16s this season, as other clubs began to find difficulties in maintaining squad sizes, we were able to help out another six players who found themselves without any rugby. All of the existing squad were used to getting a break each game, so gaining new players didn’t cause concern or angst, but instead the lads were pleased to have new faces join them and ensure that we had a good-sized squad each week.”

By the end of the season, following the addition for two more players a squad of 28 was flying. They played in the Staffordshire U16 League and won through to a cup final against Walsall on the 7th April 2019 at Leek RUFC.

The two U16 sides played out the most competitive and entertaining Staffordshire cup final, both with squads of 24 players on the day. Player swaps took place throughout the game (not just at half time) and the sides included Talent Development Group level players through to relative novices.

Players stuck together and competed hard all match. It was nerve-jangling to the last minute and after 70 minutes the teams could not be separated... with 17 points each.

Both full squads, including those who had missed out through injury, mixed together for photos and to receive the cup.

Not just rugby players. Rugby teams!