A FINAL decision on the return of scrums to rugby league has been delayed.

The RFL say they will now firmly decide on the matter at the end of January to allow for vaccination rates among players to increase and to assess the impact of the Omicron Covid variant.

Earlier this month, the return of scrums for the first time since pre-Covid was supported if 85 per cent of players across the top two divisions of domestic rugby league were double vaccinated by December 31.

That threshold has not yet been reached – currently, just over 80 per cent of Super League players have had two doses of vaccine and that percentage rises to 81.71 in the Championship.

Karen Moorhouse, the RFL’s chief regulatory officer, said: “The RFL board share the view of the Laws Committee and the wider sport that the return of scrums is desirable, especially with a view to the World Cups in England at the end of 2022.

“However, we have to balance this with the potential risk of transmission in scrums and of scrums leading to individuals having to isolate as close contacts and the consequential impact on the ability of clubs to field teams.

"Currently, everyone in a scrum would be deemed a close contact and therefore if there was a positive case within 48 hours of a match, any unvaccinated players who had been in a scrum with the positive individual would be required to isolate for 10 days.

“In addition, the emergence of the Omicron variant since the last Laws Committee meeting has clearly changed the landscape in terms of transmissibility and the efficacy of double vaccinations – increasing the risk of positive cases and leading to a new focus on the importance of booster jabs.

“We have not mandated vaccination, but we have worked with clubs to encourage their players to do their part, both for the sport and in the national battle against Covid-19.

“Considerable progress has been made over the last couple of months, with some clubs setting an outstanding lead in terms of vaccination rates and now boosters.

“We recognise this delay is far from ideal for coaches and players as they prepare for the 2022 season with ongoing uncertainty, but in a rapidly changing landscape this is the appropriate and responsible course of action as things stand.”