2018 Laws of Rugby Update–LWOR Resident Referee Evaluation

2018 Laws of Rugby Update--LWOR Resident Referee Evaluation
A common example of an old book in a law library. The new 2018 Laws of Rugby update is now 42% reduced. (Image credit Getty Images)

From January 1st, a new version of the World Rugby law book that explains the rules, laws and regulations. Having these 2018 laws of Rugby update available for officials and stakeholders around the rugby globe, is key to implementing the 42% shorter version.

Approved at the November World Rugby Council meeting, the simplified law book is designed to make the laws easier to understand while not altering the meaning of them or how the game is played.

When World Rugby announced that they’d completed a two year long process to re-write of the Laws of the Game, Chairman Bill Beaumont trumpeted it’s 42% reduction in the size as “simplifying the language used. I believe what they have produced will make a big difference to the game as we seek to make rugby more accessible to all.”

Last Word on Rugby’s referee contributor Scott MacLean has gotten his hands on a copy of the rewritten law book, and gives us his thoughts on what’s changed.

2018 Laws of Rugby Update–LWOR Resident Referee Evaluation

As you go through the Law book, it becomes apparent that this wasn’t just a re-write to simplify the language used. It’s clear that the whole book has been restructured.

An example of this is in the Definitions section; previously these were split across the book including the law that they relate to, now they are contained solely in a section at the front of the book. For those Laws that had their own definitions section it has been replaced by ‘Principles’, a simple statement explaining the basis of the Law.

One example, is that for Law 14 – Tackle:

“A tackle can take place anywhere in the field of play. The actions of the players involved in the tackle must ensure a fair contest and allow the ball to be available for play immediately”

A second aspect that stands out is that there is one less Law section; reducing the number to 21. This has been achieved through the elimination of the previous Law 7 (titled “Mode of Play”) with the subsequent Laws renumbered.

The intent of the former Law 7 is now contained within an overarching Principles section, at the front of the Law Book.

A Move away from Legalese Jargon

A further change becomes evident once you read individual Laws themselves. Gone is the legalese structure of: Law, clause, and sub-clause. In its place is a simple numeric sequence starting at 1, and encompassing the whole Law without restarting.

For instance in the old Law book the ‘tip-tackle’ law is Law 10, clause 4, sub-clause j, written out as 10.4(j). In the 2018 Laws of Rugby update it is Law 9, point 18 – presumably to be referred to as 9.18 – which doesn’t infer a need to understand the structure of laws to comprehend.

Finally, there is the language used in the writing itself. It’s now more in line with the idea of ‘plain English’ rather than using the sort of wording you’d get from a lawyer. Using the tip-tackle law once again shows the difference:

Previously: 10.4(j) –

Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player’s feet are still off the ground such that the player’s head and/or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play.

Today: Law 9.18

A player must not lift an opponent off the ground and drop or drive that player so that their head and/or upper body make contact with the ground.

Same intent and meaning but also thirteen fewer words to accomplish it.

That theme can be found right through the revised Law book.

Note: Aside from the law variation changes brought into effect at the start of the current Northern hemisphere season/soon to be used in Southern hemisphere competition, the intent and application of the laws themselves are ‘unchanged’ and considerable care appears to have been taken to preserve this.

Casual Rugby Fan Understanding Improved

In summary, the 2018 Laws of Rugby update are a much improved on previous editions to date. It might not change how the game is played, but the understanding of the casual fan, and for those who take a keen interest in the Laws [such as referees, which Scott MacLean is] it is far easier to read and to comprehend.

For that, World Rugby and in particular the working group who contributed many hours on this project, deserve to be applauded.


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