Nigel Owens has revealed that referees will be clamping down on caterpillar rucks and jackal attempts by assist tacklers in the Six Nations.
Referees have been informed by World Rugby to pay extra attention to two areas of the game in the Six Nations which has caused debate in recent times.
The first of which is the caterpillar ruck, which has long been criticised for slowing the game down and providing scrum-halves with an excessive amount of space to perform a box kick.
While caterpillar rucks are permitted, they must be performed correctly, as players in the ruck must be fully bound to the player in front of them, with contact made from the shoulder to the hand.
Eben Etzebeth showed how to exploit an improperly formed caterpillar ruck recently, and Owens confirmed on World Rugby’s Whistle Watch that players will be allowed to do the same in the Six Nations.
Nigel Owens on caterpillar rucks.
“The first law to have a look at is the caterpillar ruck. Now, this is a bane for many of you. When a player is not clearly bound onto the ruck and the ball is at the back, then the ball will be out,” Owens explained.
“Also what they will be looking out for is to make sure that the defending team does not pull players off their feet in the ruck in order to put players on the ground to make the ball out.
“If you pull players down off their feet in that ruck it does not mean that the ball will be out, even though there may not be a body or leg over the ball. So expect to see that area of the game quickened up a bit.”
On #WhistleWatch @Nigelrefowens weighs in on the tackle height debate 📏
Watch the full episode on the World Rugby website presented by @emirates
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) February 2, 2023
Jackal attempts by assist tacklers will be closely monitored.
The second law that Six Nations referees will be keeping firmly in mind is in relation to jackal attempts by assist tacklers, who often have very quick access to the ball.
Assist tacklers may only play a small role in bringing an opposition player down, but if they do make contact with ball carrier before they are on the ground they are counted as a tackler.
This means that they must clearly release the tackler player before attempting to pilfer the ball, something which referees will be strict on in the coming months.
“Let’s look at the second law they’re going to be clamping down on, and that is clear release of the assist tacklers,” Owens said.
“The referees will be looking to make sure that the assist tackler shows clear release; no elbows on the ground, no elbows on the body. A clear release with elbows upwards before they try to gather the ball and jackal it over.
“So no leaning on the ground, keep supporting your body weight.”
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