World Rugby is to trial new laws during a series of upcoming tournaments in 2016.
World Rugby will trail a new laws at The Pacific Challenge, U20 Trophy, Tbilisi Cup, Nations Cup, Principality Cup in Wales, France’s Academy League, the National Rugby Championship in Australia and England’s Army Premiership throughout 2016.
Yesterday’s announcement, published on the governing bodies website, is part of a complete health check that ensures ‘the sport continues to develop at all levels around the world’. Indeed World Rugby are trialling these law variations in order to promote ‘player welfare, law simplification and spectator experience’.
Possibly the most radical proposal is to change the sports scoring system. In order to promote attacking play World Rugby have announced that in all of the above tournaments, with the exception of the Army Premiership, six points will be awarded for a try, and two each for a conversion, penalty and drop goal. In a further variation, no conversions will be taken after a penalty try has been scored, instead teams will automatically be awarded eight points.
Failed restarts will also be punished by the awarding of a free kick in the middle of the field instead of a scrum. However teams will be not be able to elect for a scrum from the resultant free kick, instead they will have to choose between a tap and go or a kick to touch.
Changes to the maul have also been unveiled. Mauls will now have to move forward within five seconds of being established. If the attacking maul fails to gain any momentum after five seconds and the referee can see the ball, ‘a reasonable time is allowed for the ball to emerge’. If the ball does not emerge a scrum will be ordered.
The scrum will also be affected the proposed changes. While the current scrum sequence of ‘crouch, bind, set’ has reduced front row injuries by 50% by ‘reducing forces on engagement by 25 per cent’, World Rugby remain worried by the rate of scrum completions. Therefore the sequence will now change to just crouch and bind.
In the crouch position ‘front rows will be shoulder to shoulder with their opponents, stable and supporting their own weight without pushing’. Upon the bind call being made by the referee, ‘props will position their arms in the correct ‘bind’ position. The front rows (+ back 5 players) will tighten binds and set themselves for the throw-in’.
Defending teams will also be discouraged from wheeling the scrum by awarding the attacking team with a new scrum if wheeling does occur. In a situation where a team is unable to supply front row cover due to in game injuries or suffer a sending off, each team will have to commit to involving eight players in uncontested scrums. This differs from the current law, where it is possible to have uncontested scrums involving less than the sixteen players required.
Scrum halves will continue to have to throw the ball into the scrum straight and square, but will now be allowed to align his shoulder to the centre of the scrum. This change will have the effect of allowing the scrum half to ‘stand a shoulder width towards his side of the middle line’ of the set piece. The scrum half can also expect to receive a signal from his hooker that he is ready to strike the ball. It is hoped that by allowing the hookers signal for the feed it will encourage them to strike the ball early.
The advantage rule will also be overhauled for the duration of the trail. In a situation where a number of penalties have been conceded during a period of advantage, the attacking team’s captain be be allowed select from which penalty he would like to restart the game.
In a bid to stop defending sides giving away penalties after 80 minutes has expired, if awarded a penalty, attacking sides will be allowed kick for touch and and take the resultant line out. The game will then be brought to a close upon the next occasion in which the ball goes dead. Unless of course another penalty is awarded. This would be a welcomed new departure, as defending sides would run the risk of having to defend a set piece in time added on.
Five meter drop outs will also be trialled in the event of an attacking team knocking on the ball or throwing a forward pass in the defending team’s in goal area. Although the defending team would still have the option to scrum if they so wish, the trials will offer the opportunity of taking a five meter drop out instead.
Finally World Rugby has moved to clarify four aspects of the laws relating to the ball being in touch. At the moment if a player is juggling with possession, but not in contact with the ball, and puts his foot on the touchline, he is deemed not to be in touch. However under the proposed changes, that player would be deemed to be in touch, despite the fact that he may not be in contact with the ball.
It has also been confirmed that players may ‘jump from the playing area and return a ball to play that has reached the plane of touch, provided the player does so before he or she lands in touch’.
Players whose momentum takes him or her over the touchline, will be permitted to return the ball to play, provided that neither the player nor the ball lands in touch before the ball is released.
Last but not least, players who are in touch and who catch or pick up the ball before it has reached the plane of touch, are now deemed to have taken the ball off the field of play.
The aim of the new laws is to speed up the game. This will certainly be the case with the changes to the restart laws and those in the scrum. However critics will point to the fact that the scrum should remain a contest, and allowing the scrum half feed to the ball from his own side, is far too advantageous to the attacking team. Nevertheless allowing teams kick the ball to touch from penalties that have been won after the 80th minute is to be welcomed.
Alan Drumm, Pundit Arena