Wallabies prop Scott Sio backs scrum clock for domestic Super Rugby

Wallabies prop Scott Sio is in favour of an idea to implement a scrum clock, among other law tweaks, when Australia launches its domestic Super Rugby competition in the coming months.

Sio returned to training with nine other Brumbies teammates on Monday in the first step towards a resumption of the rugby season, which was suspended on March 14 due to the coronavirus; the closing of borders in New Zealand and Australia making Super Rugby untenable.

Almost two months on there is at last some good news on the horizon with New Zealand confirming its domestic competition would start on June 13, while Australia is aiming to start a similar tournament -- which is likely to see the Western Force return alongside the country's four Super Rugby franchises -- in early July.

The coaches of the four Australian Super Rugby franchises have been discussing certain law variations that could be adopted for the start-up competition, the use of a scrum clock among those likely to be welcomed by frustrated rugby supporters.

And the move has the cautious support of Sio, so long as a final decision on the law tweak is made quickly and gives players the opportunity to adapt their technique and preparation accordingly.

"As this year has shown we have to have the ability to adapt and adjust," Sio told reporters on Monday. "And if that's something that's brought in, it's something we will definitely have to train and take some time to train for at least a month before we go back in there because it is going to require us being a bit quicker at setup time. But safety is paramount, first and foremost.

"Whatever can help make the game exciting for the fanbase, but safe for the players at the same time, we're all for it...but I think if it's something that's trained repetitively over a period of time, we can definitely manage that and handle that as a group."

The time it takes for a scrum to be set has long been a bugbear among rugby supporters, particularly those in the southern hemisphere, while continued resets also strip valuable playing minutes from the game clock.

Putting forward packs on the clock, safely, would be welcomed by supporters just as it was in the NRL, so too any move that made the game a more entertaining and lively spectacle.

"There's been some good discussion around a different couple of groups on some sort of innovation or variation to be played in this competition," Rugby Australia high performance manager Ben Whitaker said later Monday. "I think firstly we're really interested in generating some more broadcast activations, particularly with no crowd, that might be a bit different to what's been done in the past and don't require approvals from other governing bodies; whereas the on-field game requires some approval from World Rugby.

"And we feel like we want to zero in on some variations that could attract and be entertaining and exciting, but we are also mindful that this is the Super Rugby and we want to make sure that what we put in place is just that and it needs to lend itself to selecting a Wallabies team to play later in the year.

"So there's a bit of a balance there but I will say that the stakeholders involved in looking at innovation have been fantastic in putting time into it. And like I said, it's really encouraging to see the options that they've provided, particularly off-field access to players and coaches, which is very exciting."

Australian rugby has otherwise faced a litany of problems since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, including a bitter pay war with the players themselves that finally came to an end after a fortnight of negotiations.

Cuts of up to 60 percent were agreed to by the players while chief executive Raelene Castle resigned only a few days later. The uncertainty and division continued when new board powerbroker Peter Wiggs abruptly also walked away last week, before former RA chief operating officer Rob Clarke returned as interim CEO.

Concerns about the game's solvency continue to circulate, which could see the governing body struggle to pay even the reduced contracts agreed to by the players and force some players to head offshore.

But Sio says he isn't one of them, the prop confident the game has hit rock bottom and can now chart a course towards a brighter future, firstly with the confirmation of Australia's domestic competition.

"No, at the moment we're pretty confident that things are going to go well here, so our focus is in-house at the moment," Sio responded when asked whether he was exploring options overseas. "We're kind of like everyone else is in the country, just taking it day by day at the moment because the landscape is forever changing; we've just got to be ready for anything."

Pushed on the problems like the lack of a broadcast deal beyond 2020, Super Rugby's future and the code's general uncertainty, Sio added: "There all problems that we have to take one at a time. I think with every sport, everyone has to find out when the government are willing to lift their restrictions and so forth and that's when everyone can start looking into those sorts of things like broadcast deals and what not.

"We understand still that the safety of the country is the most important thing at the moment, and the government has put in that three-stage process to make sure that everyone is in the right place at the right time for everything to commence."