Learning the Warrior code

Saracens and Wigan's rugby league team are planning a revolutionary 'hybrid' encounter

Saracens plan to face Wigan Warriors in a 13-a-side match under revolutionary "hybrid" rules mixing elements of union and league. The Aviva Premiership champions would stage the match against league's Challenge Cup holders at Watford, Wigan or a neutral venue before the end of this season as part of the clubs' new link-up.

Saracens confirmed to The Independent on Sunday their interest in playing under the so-called Hybrid Code invented in Australia by a group including the former Wallaby World Cup-winning coach Bob Dwyer, who had talks with the club on a visit to Britain last week when he also watched the league Four Nations Tests at Wembley.

Under hybrid rules the team in possession uses league's "play the ball" in their own half and switches to union's ruck and maul when they cross halfway, with a 60-second limit on possession to avoid long series of phases such as the 45 defended by Saracens at Twickenham last May when they won the Premiership title against Leicester.

Dwyer's code has so far been played only by schools in Australia, and he says no match would take place without the approval of the governing bodies in league and union. But an inaugural professional outing in England is being lined up by Saracens for a date in March or April, dependent on their performance in cups and Wigan's commitments. It would be quite different from the two matches – one league, one union – played by Wigan and Bath in 1996 and the half-league, half-union game between Sale and St Helens in January 2003.

Andy Farrell, Saracens' assistant coach and the former Wigan captain, has been pivotal in the link-up that will see him and his coaching and conditioning colleagues visit their counterparts at his old club, and vice versa, in the next few weeks. Farrell also helped broker Sarries' £250,000 signing of Wigan centre Joel Tomkins, and he said player swaps at academy level were likely.

"A guy who hasn't made it in the Wigan academy may suit us," Farrell said. "A loose forward in our academy may be suited to the front row in league. Saracens have had a remarkable two and a half years, and Wigan are back to the old fashioned glory days. It makes sense to see how we can help each other, and a cross-code match would be part of that."

Some union devotees have viewed the demise of rucking after the tackle and the adoption of league's defence techniques as creeping steps towards the eventual merger of the codes. The All Blacks won the recent World Cup with a notably less structured style than of old. Farrell said cautiously: "There will always be things tried that people will turn their noses up at. For the time being, union is a worldwide sport and I can't see them merging. Maybe some time in the future it will happen, if they keep trying things like this."

Saracens are determined innovators. They visited the NFL's Miami Dolphins in April and hosted coaches from the Hawthorn Aussie Rules club a fortnight ago. The priority is today's Heineken Cup opener with Treviso, which offers another chance for the Premiership player of the month Owen Farrell – Andy's son – to start at centre outside fly-half Charlie Hodgson. The old-young pair orchestrated a first home Premiership defeat for Gloucester in two years two weeks ago, when Farrell Jnr's kick through the defensive line for Brad Barritt's winning try was a classic league ploy.

The 20-year-old, whom Sarries supporters like to call "Fazlet", was prominent in last season's title-winning campaign and is worthy of an England call-up when the Six Nations squad is named on 1 January, according to both Saracens' director of rugby Mark McCall and Farrell Snr.

"The England Saxons only play twice a year now," said Farrell, who gave up coaching England's second string last season to concentrate on his club. "So what do you get judged on? You can only go off players being involved in big club games – you get judged on doing as well as you can in the Premiership and Heineken Cup. A lot of our players, including Owen, have been involved in big games at Wembley with decent crowds, and getting through to the final twice and winning one. As a squad we can't do any more than we're doing. It's only right our guys individually will get honours for their country."

And how about the coaches, Saracens' all-English trio of assistants to the Ulsterman McCall, comprising Farrell, Paul Gustard and Alex Sanderson? Even if Leicester are out of fashion as England consider changes, there appears to be little press clamour for Twickenham to look towards the success story based at St Albans. "It seems to go with the territory as far as Saracens is concerned," Farrell said. "We can only change that perception by keeping on doing what we're doing. Of course we're ambitious as a coaching staff. We're ambitious for Saracens to do well."

Basics of the 'hybrid code'

Thirteen players on each side, and two referees. Possession is "play the ball" with no tackle count in a team's own half and "ruck and maul" in the attacking half, subject to a 60-second "shot clock" during which teams must score or kick or be turned over.

"50-20" rule stipulates that a team earns an attacking scrum by kicking the ball from their half to touch within 20 metres of the goalline without it going out on the full.

Six players each in scrum, no flankers.

Try worth five points, conversions and penalty goals two, field goals one.

Hugh Godwin

Suggested Topics
Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
Paul McCartney backs the
people
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone