With player welfare at the heart of the process, a number of minor amendments will come into effect in 2016 while a package of closed law trials announced in September get underway.
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, while 2016 will also see a programme of closed law trials begin in earnest as World Rugby’s quadrennial law review process continues in 2016.
Every four years, rugby’s governing body undertakes a complete health-check of the game’s playing trends across the Rugby 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 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.
2016 minor law amendments recap
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.
2016 closed trials recap
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 Mitre 10 Cup and other World Rugby competitions will trial amendments relation to the tackle, breakdown and maul in its premier domestic competition (See editors’ notes for further detail).
The package of amendments trialled in the Mitre 10 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 Mitre 10 Cup trial, which was volunteered by the NZR, will provide valuable data for the LRG to consider.
2016 law clarifications recap
In addition, as announced in September, 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.
Law review proposals were considered against the following agreed principles:
1. Player welfare, especially concussion, is the number-one priority
2. The laws must allow for a fair contest for possession, especially in the contact area, in general play and when play is restarted at scrums, lineouts and kick-offs
3. The game remains a sport for all shapes and sizes, for men and women, and for boys and girls
4. The unique identities of the game must be maintained, including the scrum, lineout, ruck, maul, tackle, kick-off and restarts
5. Any changes must promote enjoyment for participants and entertainment for spectators and must be in line with World Rugby’s core values of passion, respect, integrity, discipline and solidarity
6. The laws must be applicable by match officials
7. The game should be as easy to understand as possible for players, coaches, match officials and spectators
Law review cycle 2015-18:
1. Early 2015: Call for suggested amendments
2. Mid-2015: LRG reviews suggestions made by unions/regional associations
3. September 2015: Rugby Committee meets to discuss proposals
4. Early 2016: Initial trials are conducted in relevant competitions
5. Mid-2016: Initial trials are reviewed by LRG
6. October 2016: Initial trials are reviewed by Rugby Committee
7. November 2016: Global trials (if appropriate) are approved by World Rugby Council
8. January 2017: Any such global trials start in southern hemisphere and August 2017 in northern hemisphere
9. June 2018: Any global trials are reviewed by LRG
10. October 2018: Recommendations are made to Rugby Committee
11. November 2018: Council confirms law amendments (if appropriate) at a special meeting and the law is changed accordingly
LRG members were nominated by the top 10 unions (Six Nations and SANZAR). Composition includes directors of rugby, coaches, players and referee representatives. Every World Rugby member union and all the regional associations had an opportunity to propose law changes and trials. As part of the review process, all relevant footage is analysed independently against agreed success criteria, for desired and undesired results as well as looking for possible unintended outcomes (positive and negative).
At the original LRG meeting the members agreed that Laws 15-17 (Tackle, Ruck and Maul) needed further consideration. All Unions were asked to further consider any potential trials with their Unions. As a result the LRG met again and agreed to trial the following elements of the game, the full list of which can be found HERE.
1. The tackler must get up before playing the ball and then may only play the ball from behind his side of the breakdown mid-point. (amend current 15.4 (c). The breakdown mid-point is not the ball but the point where players are in contact.
2. A tackled player must immediately pass the ball or release it. That player must also get up or move away from it at once (existing 15.5 (b)).
3. If tackler and ball carrier only then there is no breakdown or offside line – this is open play and subsequent attacking players maybe be tackled by retreating players.
4. Recognise assist tackler in law
Players in opposition to the ball carrier who remain on their feet who bring the ball carrier to ground so that the player is tackled must clearly release the ball and the ball carrier immediately after the tackled player is put on the ground. Those players may then play the ball providing they are on their feet and do so from behind the breakdown mid-point (Existing 15.6 (c))
Law 16 – Breakdown
1. A breakdown commences when at least one player from the attacking team is on their feet and over the ball which is on the ground (tackled player, tackler plus one more). At this point the offside line is created (new definition).
2. Only players acting as a half-back can play the ball with their hands (lift the ball out of the breakdown). They must be on their feet and on-side. They must subsequently run, pass or kick (new 16.2 – Joining a breakdown). A half-back is any one player who is not part of the breakdown and behind the hindmost foot who is in a position to play the ball emerging from the breakdown. The hindmost foot will be the offside line for half-back players.
3. Offside line at a ruck is the back foot plus one metre. If the back foot of the hindmost player is on or behind the goal line, the offside line for the defending team is the goal line. To be policed by assistant referees (new 16.5 (a) – offside at the breakdown).
4. All arriving players must come from an onside position (see 3 above) and can enter their side of the breakdown mid-point (no gate). Players must remain on their feet (new 16.5 (c)).
5. No players at breakdown can have hands on the ground beyond the ball, hold onto or lean on or have knees on players on the ground. Players off their feet sealing the ball will be penalised. Arriving players encouraged to drive over or past the ball (existing 16.4).
6. Players must not handle the ball in a breakdown once the breakdown is formed. Once the breakdown contest is formed the player must release the ball (new 16.4 – other breakdown offences).
7. The breakdown ends when the ball emerges or the ball is picked up (new 16.6 – successful end to a breakdown).
The group debated trialling a collapsed maul. The consensus was that this would be perceived as dangerous and should not be trialled.
The group agreed to issue a law application (from 1 January) guideline to enforce the following:
The ball can be moved backwards hand-to-hand once the maul has formed. A player is not allowed to move or slide to the back of the maul when he is in possession of the ball. Sanction: Penalty kick.