World Rugby Tweaks Scrum and Ruck Laws – Global Trial Announced

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London Welsh v Harlequins - Aviva Premiership
OXFORD, ENGLAND - JANUARY 06: Referee Llyr Apgeraint Roberts looks on as London Welsh and Harlequins form a scrum during the Aviva Premiership match between London Welsh and Harlequins at Kassam Stadium on January 6, 2013 in Oxford, England. (Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

Rugby Unions governing body World Rugby, have announced global trials ahead of proposed amendments to the scrum and tackle/ruck laws. The trials will take place from August 1 in the Northern Hemisphere, as World Rugby tweaks Scrum and Ruck Laws in an attempt to make the game simpler to watch, and play.

New Global Trial Announced from August 1, 2017

In news out of the World Rugby Executive Committee, six new trial amendments will take affect in the Northern Hemisphere. This is after positive trials at specific International competitions. That included the recent Under 20 Championships, held in Georgia.

The amendments, which relate to the scrum (Law 20) and tackle/ruck (Laws 15 and 16), are aimed at making the game simpler. Simpler to play and referee, as well as further promoting player welfare.

Rugby Committee Chairman John Jeffrey added: “These law amendments are designed to improve the experience of those playing and watching the game at all levels. They are being trialed to avoid negative play where possible.

“The results of the closed trials were highly-encouraging with more ball out from the scrum, fewer penalties and better stability, which has a player welfare benefit too.”

Last Word on Rugby’s resident referee Scott MacLean has viewed the official rule detail. From this he see’s benefits and pitfalls. “I’ll be interested in how the scrum changes play out, and the changes to the ruck law may simplify matters.

But given how they played out in New Zealand with teams not committing and simply fanning out on defense, I’m not convinced they’ll get the outcomes they’re looking for.”

European Rugby to Implement Six New Law Amendments

Implementation this year from August 1 will enable at least a year of evaluation before the moratorium on law amendment begins a year out from Rugby World Cup 2019.

The six new aspects of law were part of the original 2015 laws review process. They were recommended to move to closed trial to provide a further analysis opportunity before global trial could be considered.

These closed trials were operational at this year’s World Rugby U20 Championship, World Rugby Nations Cup, World Rugby Pacific Challenge, Americas Rugby Championship and Oceania Rugby U20 Championship, with positive outcomes:

  • More ball coming back into play with fewer penalties and fewer collapses
  • The ball was thrown in without delay, scrums continuing to be stable prior to throw-in
  • No collapses occurred by the number eight picking the ball up from under the second rows.

New Law Amendments – Explained From ‘the Refs’ Point-of-view

Scott MacLean is an active referee, with the Wellington Referees Association.

“Three of the trial amendments relate to the scrum. The first allows the feeding halfback to be on ‘their’ side of the center line when feeding the ball. This it is claimed, will lead to greater stability, and gives the non-offending team some advantage.

Baptiste Couilloud of France waits to put the ball into a scrum during the World Rugby U20 Championship match, in Tblisi, Georgia. (Photo by Mark Runnacles/Getty Images)

“The second is an alteration to the handling in the scrum and allows the number eight to pick the ball up from the feet of the locks in front of them. Touted as promoting continuity, it’s also a case of the law being altered to reflect ‘how the game is currently being played’ [Law 20.9 (b)]. Number eights have long picked up the ball in this situation – usually while going backwards – without sanction, but the law will educate players and fans both.

“The third alteration is an additional requirement that the team feeding the ball must now strike for it. The theory; what I interpret is that that it will end the practice of some teams (such as Argentina) simply powering over the ball rather than hooking it.

“Combined with where the halfback can now feed the ball from [Law 20.8 (b)], the end of scrums where the ball just sits there and almost inevitably results in the scrum collapsing and needing to be reset.

“In turn that should lead to more time with the ball in play and less time taken up with scrums.”

World Rugby Tweaks Scrum and Ruck Laws

Scott Maclean continues to say “the other area is the latest attempt to revise the breakdown area and when offside lines are formed. Unfortunately they seem to be a poor rehash of the laws trialed last year in New Zealand’s domestic Mitre10 Cup  (M10) competition. These were widely panned, by players and commentators both.”

World Rugby believes:

  • Feedback indicated that the tackle was easier to referee with more clearly defined offside lines. Tacklers not interfering with the quality of the ball, with more players on their feet allowing counter rucking.

For more specific details on the law amendments, view the World Rugby ‘Laws of the Game’ site, click on Global Law Trials 2017.

Scott MacLean told LWOR “the first change affects the tackler, who now cannot play the ball from any angle and must re-enter the tackle from their side – the ‘gate’ [Law 15.4 (c)]– if they wish to do so. The aim here is to simplify what’s often a difficult area to referee, but also for fans watching as whats often a legal act is mistaken for being ‘in the side’.

“The other changes are modifications of the M10 trials. A ruck is now formed when at least one player is on their feet and over the ball rather than the current requirement for one from each team, and the M10 trial – where it was called a ‘breakdown’ – of only a player from the attacking team was required.

Dylan Hartley (C) the England captain talks to referee Romain Poite during the RBS Six Nations match between England and Italy at Twickenham Stadium. (Photo by David Rogers – RFU/The RFU Collection via Getty Images)

Law Interpretations and ‘Invention’ Look to be Limited in the Future

“While this change will end the confusion of when offside lines are created, it will also put an end to invention of teams playing ‘zero-tackle’ as Italy did to flummox England, in the Six Nations.

“The second part of this is that while players on their feet can play for the ball with their hands, the new instructions outlaw this once an opponent arrives. This might be the most contentious part of the trial laws as – as referees have seen in New Zealand – it almost effectively wipes out the ball-fetching-type openside.

“The final change is actually an improvement on existing laws in my opinion. Outlawing the practice of kicking the ball in a ruck. In M10 players adapted to not being able to disrupt ball in the breakdown as they had previously, by kicking it out. Some players suffered gashes and other injuries, so a revised interpretation was put in place. This [Law 16.4: Other ruck offences] now goes a step further.”

Scott, and Last Word on Rugby will follow the developments with interest. As World Rugby tweaks Scrum and Ruck laws again, it was not a knee-jerk reaction. After detailed and highly-positive union, player and match official feedback, changes were authorized by the World Rugby Executive, and Law Review Group members.

That group includes: Alain Rolland; Rhys Jones; Mark Harrington (all World Rugby); Nigel Melville (RFU); Ben Whitaker (ARU); David Nucifora (IRFU); Didier Retiere (FFR); Dave Rennie (NZR), Francesco Ascione (FIR); Rachael Burford (IRPA); Chris Paterson (SRU); Pablo Bouza (UAR); Paul Adams (WRU); Chean Roux (SARU). Previous inputs within the process included Paul O’Connell (IRPA); Eddie Jones (RFU); Nigel Whitehouse (WRU) and Dr Martin Raftery (World Rugby).

“Main photo credit”

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