World Rugby have announced that they will take the next steps towards potentially introducing law changes after the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
The law amendments under consideration are proposed with player welfare in mind and law experts, players, coaches, referees and elite competition representatives will meet in London this week to further build on the player welfare and laws symposium which was held in Marcoussis in France in March earlier this year.
Some of the current trends in the game which were discussed in Marcoussis included that ball in play time has increased by up to 50% since 1987 while the number of tackles have increased by 252% over the same period. Scrums have decreased by 56%.
The delegates involved in the Marcoussis symposium considered evidence-based ways to reduce injuries in the tackle as the tackle accounts for 50% of all injuries and 76% of all concussions.
The law-review group will consider the following law amendments:
- 50:22 kick proposal: creating space by encouraging players to drop back from the defensive line
- Reduction in the number of permitted substitutions
- Off feet at the ruck/players must leave the ball: creating greater contest at the ruck to speed up ball availability
- Delaying the movement of the ruck defensive line: reduce defensive line speed
- Lowering the tackle height: building on World Rugby’s three-phase approach
- Ability to review a yellow card when a player is in the sin bin for dangerous foul play
One of the most interesting of the above proposals is the ’50:22 kick proposal’.
Effectively, if a ball is kicked from inside a team’s own half (behind the 50m line) and the ball bounces in field before going out of play in the opposition 22, the lineout would be awarded to the team who kicked the ball.
This would mean a defensive team would have to put more players in the backfield so to prevent the attacking team from achieving this advantageous scenario. This would result in fewer players in the defensive line and ultimately see a reduction in the ‘rugby league style’ fast line speed which has led to more tackles and often, dangerous ones.
Recommendations will be made on these six proposals and we could see them trialled in various competitions after the World Cup.
In the recent U20 World Championship and in the 2018 edition, a warning system was in operation whereby a high-risk contact tackle technique warning was issued to any player where the tackle was upright (i.e. not bent at the waist when tackling), and that there was clear and obvious head contact for either player. When two high-risk tackle technique warnings had been issued, a player would automatically receive a one-match suspension.
The 2018 edition resulted in a 50% reduction in the overall concussion rate.
In the 2019 edition, this warning system went one step further by rescinding a player’s warning if the coaches could demonstrate that they identified the technical cause of the issued warning and had taken steps to mitigate a repeat occurrence.
This is based on a checklist developed by the world’s best defence coaches that coaches and players will be able to adopt to address high-risk technique.
The law review group will also consider this data further with the potential to trial it in other competitions.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “We are committed to ensuring that rugby is as simple and safe to play for all and the quadrennial law review process is the vehicle in which we review current law with a view to enhancing the experience for players and fans.
“This is the first time that we have kick-started the process with the sole purpose of injury-prevention and the Law Review Group will give detailed consideration and analysis of the Marcoussis recommendations and to determine practicality and likely impact and therefore which ideas, if any, would be suitable for trial recommendation after Rugby World Cup 2019 in Japan.”