Law changes set for 2016

World Rugby has announced that a number of minor amendments and closed law trials will come into effect in 2016.

A number of minor law amendments approved and announced in September will come into effect in the southern hemisphere on 1 January and 1 July in the northern hemisphere. The year 2016 will also see a programme of closed law trials begin in earnest as World Rugby’s quadrennial law review process continues.

Every four years, rugby’s governing body undertakes a complete health-check of the game’s playing trends across the World Cup cycle to ensure that the sport continues to develop at all levels around the world. This extensive process is undertaken with full union consultation and has player welfare, game simplification and fan experience at its core.

The implementation of the package of law trials and law amendments by the World Rugby Council follows detailed analysis and evaluation of union submissions by the specialist Law Review Group (LRG) which reports to the Rugby Committee. This evaluation process also featured specialist input from the Scrum Steering Group (SSG) and the Multi-Disciplinary Injury Prevention Group (MDIPG) over the past year and is the next phase of the law change process.

Play acting or 'simulation' will be specifically outlawed in the game in a move that formalises resistance to a practice that has been creeping into the game in recent years. Any player who dives or feigns injury in an effort to influence the match officials will be liable for sanction. Previously, such offences were covered under the laws covering general acts contrary to good sportsmanship.

With the closed law trials kicking off in Wales and Australia in August with the Principality Cup and National Rugby Championship respectively, 2016 will see other tournaments follow, including a number of World Rugby competitions, namely the Pacific Challenge Cup (March), U20 Trophy (April), Nations Cup (June) and Tbilisi Cup (June), providing valuable data from players, coaches and match officials for the LRG to consider.

Following Council approval and union support, New Zealand’s domestic tournament and other World Rugby competitions will trial amendments in relation to the tackle, breakdown and maul. The package of amendments trialled in the New Zealand Cup will also include the use of two referees, which has previously been trialled in South Africa’s Varsity Cup. As with the above trials, the New Zealand Cup trial, which was volunteered by the NZRU, will provide valuable data for the LRG to consider.

In addition, a package of clarifications in law have been brought within the law book. All clarifications are effective from the date of the designated members' decision. However, the LRG felt that these clarifications should be recognised by full inclusion in the law book.

If the ball travels forward from the ball carrier as the result of a rip or deliberate ball-strike by an opponent then that should not be considered a knock-on and play should continue. Try-scoring teams will have the option of declining to take the conversion and, if they do so prior to time elapsing at half-time or full-time, the restart shall take place.

All the minor law amendments and law trials

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Jon Cardinelli