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British universities & Colleges Sport

Rolling Substitutions

Please find below the BUCS Rugby Union Substitution Guidelines for both Men’s and Women’s that shall be enforced for games played within England, Scotland and Wales during 2016/17.

England and Wales will follow the same guidelines (please note these have been adapted from the regulations used in England in 2013/14. The two changes are that each team must provide a competent person to aid the referee in administration of player interchanges and once a player is replaced due to injury they cannot return to the pitch. Scotland remains the same as previous seasons.

England & Wales – utilising the Rolling Substitutions guidelines adapted from RFU Regulation 13.

Scotland – utilising a variation of the Rolling Substitution guidelines. Please note the 12 Card System and the impact on Scottish teams hosting non-Scottish institutions; requirements ‘A’ and ‘B’ as detailed on page 4-5 of this document.  

England & Wales

Rolling Substitutions (extracted from RFU Regulation 13 – Adult Competitions) – with 2 amendments in 13.5.14 and 13.5.20 as sanctioned by the WRU.

Divisional Organising Committees may, in their discretion, permit rolling substitutions in League Matches at Level 5 and below, and in the RFU Intermediate Cup, Senior Vase and Junior Vase matches. If the relevant Divisional Organising Committee decides to implement rolling substitutions such implementation must be in accordance with Regulations 13.5.14 to 13.5.21 below.

In a match where consent has been given by the appropriate Divisional Organising Committee prior to the Season and subject to Regulations (including, without limitation, 13.5.9 and 13.5.10) each team shall be permitted to use rolling substitutions of not more than the maximum number of the player interchanges (“Permitted Player Interchanges”) set out in the table below:

No of Player Replacements    Interchanges
                 3                               8
                 4                               9
                 5                              10
                 7                              12

Amendment 1: Each team must designate a suitable person to manage their substitutions and assist the referee in this process.

In a Play Off Match, Permitted Player Interchanges will only be permitted where both participating teams have played their previous matches with Permitted Player Interchanges.

After the Permitted Player Interchanges have been made no other replacements, substitutions or Player Interchanges will be permitted for any reason including injuries and in the event that a player is injured the team will play with one less player and with uncontested scrums in the event that this involves a front row player and the game cannot continue safely with contested scrums.

Player Interchanges replace the “blood bin”. If a Player has an open wound and thus has to leave the field, and the team has used all of its Permitted Player Interchanges, that Player may not be replaced and the team shall continue with a maximum of fourteen players. The Player is permitted to return once the wound has been treated and the bleeding stopped.

Not more than two Player Interchanges per team may occur at any one time and may only occur during a stoppage in play and with the knowledge of the Referee who is entitled in his sole opinion to refuse to allow or postpone a Player Interchange if he believes either that the Player Interchange would prevent the opposition from restarting the game quickly or where a Player has been injured or that it would not be safe for the replacement Player who has been previously injured to play in the match.

A Player who is a replacement shall not be entitled to take a kick at goal until a passage of play has taken place since that Player took to the field of play.

Amendment 2:
A player who is replaced due to injury will not be allowed to take any further part in that match. The only exception here is for an open wound where Regulation 13.5.17 will apply.

Under dispensation provided to Unions by the International Rugby Board, where these rolling substitutions Regulations conflict with the Laws of the Game these Regulations shall take precedence.

Please click here to download a copy of the Rolling Substitutions Card to be used for all matches in England & Wales


To assist in the management, each Club should have a set of *cards numbers 1 – 12 for use by the person controlling the substitutions.
*If the fixture involves a non-Scottish team, it is the responsibility of the hosting Scottish team to either a) supply two sets of cards at the fixture OR b) contact their opposition in advance (more than 48 hrs)to notify them of the requirement.


A maximum of 12 substitutions per side per match will be allowed.

Substitutions will include blood, front row replacements for yellow cards (see below), injuries, indeed any time one player replaces another player from the same team. 

When a player has a blood injury he must be replaced and this will count as I substitution.  If that player returns to the field of play after receiving medical attention, this will count as a substitution

When a player is sent from the field of play under a red card, that is not a substitution.

When a player, out-with the front row, is temporarily suspended, that is not a substitution.

When a front row player is temporarily suspended and leaves the field of play, that is not a substitution. However, if a scrum is ordered during the period of temporary suspension and a player is required to leave the field to allow a front row player to come on, that counts as 1 substitution. If, at the end of the period of temporary suspension, the team wish to bring the front row player back on, that counts as 1 substitution. If the team do not wish to replace the front row player, but bring the replaced player back on to bring the team back up to 15, that is not a substitution.

After all 12 substitutions are made, no other substitutions will be allowed for whatever reason including injuries. If after the 12 are used there is any reason for a player to come off the pitch, the team goes down to 14 players. Non contested scrums will happen if this includes a front row player.

Exception. If a front row player is yellow carded and the subsequent substitution of a player to allow a front row player on to maintain contested scrums results in the team using its 12th card, the original yellow carded player and the substituted player will be allowed to return at the end of the period of suspension.

When “rolling substitution” applies to the front row, it must be on a like for like basis.

Substitutions will only be permitted at “dead ball time”.

It will not be the responsibility of the referee to count the substitutions.

At Premier 1-3 1st xv level, the home club will appoint a No 4 official to administer the changes.

At all other levels, the home club touch judge/No 4 official will be responsible for collecting the cards.

The person collecting the cards will not be required to write down details of the substitution.

The coach will be aware of the number of substitutions remaining from the number of cards he still holds.

Clubs are asked to ensure that the No4/ Home touch judge understands the process


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