Six law amendments added to global trial

Refereeing of scrums and the tackle/ruck will be different when the Springboks embark on their end-of-year tour in November.

The World Rugby Executive Committee has approved the addition of six law amendments to the programme of global law trials.

The amendments, which were made following positive trials in specific international competitions this year, relate to the scrum (Law 20) and tackle/ruck (Laws 15 and 16), and are aimed at making the game simpler to play and referee, as well as further promoting player welfare.

They 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 trialled.

View full package of global law trials

The six law amendments will now join the scheduled global law trial programme, completing a total package of 11 aspects of law, and will debut in full from 1 August in the northern hemisphere and from 1 January in the south.

The November 2017 Tests will operate under the full global law trials, while the 2017 Women’s World Cup will operate under the package of five global law trials that has been operational in the southern hemisphere since January and was operational during the June test window.

The six aspects of law approved to join the global trial programme are:

1. Law 20.5 and 20.5 (d) Throwing the ball into the scrum
No signal from referee. The scrumhalf must throw the ball in straight, but is allowed to align their shoulder on the middle line of the scrum, therefore allowing them to stand a shoulder width towards their 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).

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 (locks).
Rationale: To promote continuity.

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.
Sanction: Free kick.
Rationale: To promote a fair contest for possession.

4. Law 15.4 (c)
The tackler must get up before playing the ball and then can only play from their 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.

5. Law 16 Ruck
A ruck commences when at least one player is on their 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.

6. Law 16.4: Other ruck offences
A player must not kick the ball out of a ruck. The player can only hook it in a backwards motion.
Sanction: Penalty
Rationale: To promote player welfare and to make it consistent with scrum law.

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 global trials could be considered.

These closed trials were operational at the 2017 World Rugby U20 Championship, World Rugby Nations Cup, World Rugby Pacific Challenge, Americas Rugby Championship and Oceania Rugby U20 Championship, with positive outcomes:

Scrum 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 (locks).

Tackle outcomes:
– 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.

Photo: Simon West/Getty Images

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Simon Borchardt