02 Aug 2017
World Rugby is in the process of introducing changes to the laws as a trail. It made five amendments and now another six, all after trials and as a part of ongoing testing.
By Paul Dobson, Moonsport
They were to be implemented in the Northern Hemisphere in August and in the South in January 2018. But SARU has decided that they will start in South Africa on 1 August 2017, because teams will be playing to them when playing in the north.
They are not complicated and will probably go unnoticed by the casual eye.
The six new changes affect the scrum and the tackle/ruck with the object of making playing and refereeing in those areas simpler. There is a straight feed with bias, reaffirmed foot-up, no special leave for tacklers, a one-man ruck and a penalty for kicking the ball out of a ruck.
The changes have been approved following extensive game data analysis as well as player, coach, match official and union feedback from the tournaments in which these six aspects of law were tried out.
The Six Amendments
1. Law 20.5 and 20.5 (d) Throwing the ball into the scrum
No referee's signal from the referee. The scrumhalf must throw the ball in straight but is allowed to align his shoulder on the middle line of the scrum, therefore allowing the scrumhalf to stand a shoulder width towards his own side of the middle line.
Rationale: To promote scrum stability, a fair contest for possession while also giving the advantage to the team throwing in (non-offending team).
Note: The feed MUST BE STRAIGHT. Another important aspect is that teams will now “hit and chase”. Referees must be vigilant on this. There must be stability before the feed
2. Law 20.9 (b) Handling in the scrum – exception
The number eight shall be allowed to pick the ball from the feet of the second-rows.
Rationale: To promote continuity.
Note: This enables teams to play more quickly
3. Law 20 Striking after the throw-in
Once the ball touches the ground in the tunnel, any front-row player may use either foot to try to win possession of the ball. One player from the team who put the ball in must strike for the ball.
Rationale: To promote a fair contest for possession.
Note: There must be a hook from either prop or hooker. Feed must be straight.
4. Law 15.4 (c) The tackler must get up before playing the ball and then can play only from his own side of the tackle “gate”.
Rationale: To make the tackle/ruck simpler for players and referees and more consistent with the rest of that law.
Note: We add a clip to explain this
5. Law 16 ruck
A ruck commences when at least one player is on his feet and over the ball which is on the ground (tackled player, tackler). At this point, the offside lines are created. Players on their feet may use their hands to pick up the ball as long as this is immediate. As soon as an opposition player arrives, no hands can be used.
Rationale: To make the ruck simpler for players and referees.
Note: There must be a completed tackle. A player that arrives first at the breakdown may still contest for the ball
6. Law 16.4: Other ruck offences
A player must not kick the ball out of a ruck. The player is allowed to hook it only in a backwards motion.
Rationale: To promote player welfare and to make it consistent with scrum law.
Note: A player may hook the ball only in a backwards motion
The six new aspects of law were part of the original 2015 laws review process and were recommended to move to closed trial to provide a further analysis opportunity before a global trial could be considered.
These closed trials were operational at the 2017 World Rugby Under-20 Championship, World Rugby Nations Cup, World Rugby Pacific Challenge, Americas Rugby Championship and Oceania Rugby Under-20 Championship, with positive outcomes:
• More ball coming back into play with fewer penalties and fewer collapses
• The ball was fed quicker with scrums continuing to be stable prior to put-in
• No collapses occurred by the No.8 picking the ball up from under the second rows
• Feedback suggested that the tackle was easier to referee with clearly defined offside lines and tacklers not interfering with the quality of the ball with more players on their feet allowing counter-rucking
A comprehensive analysis was undertaken by the specialist Laws Review Group, the Scrum Steering Group, considering detailed and highly-positive union, player and match official feedback, before the recommendations were approved by the Rugby Committee and subsequently the Executive Committee.
The trials were also considered at the high-performance match officials and coaches meeting earlier this year.
World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont said: "World Rugby continually reviews the laws to ensure that the game is as enjoyable, simple and safe as possible at all levels. I would like to thank our unions for their full support throughout the process, the experts who evaluated the closed trial data and look forward to seeing the full results of the global trial."
Rugby Committee Chairman John Jeffrey added: "These law amendments are designed to improve the experience of those playing and watching the game at all levels and to avoid negative play where possible. The results of the closed trials were highly-encouraging with more ball out from the scrum, fewer penalties and better stability, which has a player welfare benefit too."
Implementation this year will enable at least a year of evaluation before the moratorium on law amendment begins a year out from Rugby World Cup 2019.
Law Review Group members: Alain Rolland, Rhys Jones and Mark Harrington (all World Rugby), Nigel Melville (England), Ben Whitaker (Australia), David Nucifora (Ireland), Didier Retiere (France), Dave Rennie (New Zealand), Francesco Ascione (Italy), Rachael Burford (International Rugby Players' Association), Chris Paterson (Scotland), Pablo Bouza (Argentina), Paul Adams (Wales) and Chean Roux (South Africa). Previous inputs within the process include Paul O'Connell (International Rugby Players' Association), Eddie Jones (England), Nigel Whitehouse (Wales) and Martin Raftery (World Rugby).
Law Review Group members were nominated by the top 10 unions (Six Nations and SANZAAR). Composition includes directors of rugby, coaches, players and referee representatives. Every World Rugby member union and all the regional associations had an opportunity to propose law changes and trials within the cycle. As part of the review process, all relevant footage is analysed independently against agreed success criteria, for desired and undesired results as well as looking for possible unintended outcomes (positive and negative).