Scottish Rugby News and Opinion


New law amendments pave the way for rules simplification… we hope

Come the Autumn, Ross Ford re-emerged as a force.

World Rugby has approved six new law amendments that will be lumped in with existing global law trials scheduled to start in full from the 1st August.

The news comes hot on the heels of the announcement that they have formed an exploratory group to look a reducing the number of laws Frenchmen can change their minds on confusing players and officials, with rumours they want to ditch up to 50% of the existing set to make the game simpler.

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

The November 2017 tests will operate under the full global law trials, while the upcoming Women’s Rugby World Cup 2017 will operate under the package of five global law trials that has been operational in the southern hemisphere since January and was operational during the June test window and Lions series.

Without further ado here are the (non-geography) six and our thoughts:

1. Law 20.5 and 20.6 (d) 
No signal from referee. The scrum-half must throw the ball in straight but is allowed to align their shoulder on the middle line of the scrum, therefore allowing them to stand a shoulder width towards their own side of the middle line.
Rationale: To promote scrum stability, a fair contest for possession while also giving the advantage to the team throwing in (non-offending team).

This will be good for: referees, who will less like idiots for consistently allowing scrum-halves to make squint feeds. Slower flankers will also now have an extra half-yard to go to squash the 9 into the turf once they detach.
This will be bad for: the players, who will have to start making straight feeds, at least until the referees stop paying attention again. Quicker scrum-halves like Ali Price get an extra half-yard to get round to the base and get the ball away without threat.

2. Law 20.9 (b) Handling in the scrum – exception
The number eight shall be allowed to pick the ball from the feet of the second-rows.
Rationale: To promote continuity.

This will be good for: Number 8s with a bit of skill and dexterity who can get their team moving quickly without having to control the ball with their feet first. Attacking rugby, as there is an incentive to get the ball away. Expect to see some new moves with this as a starting point from the Rennie/O’Halloran and Toony brains trusts.
This will be bad for: Number 8s with spades for hands.

3. Law 20.8 (b) Striking after the throw-in
Once the ball touches the ground in the tunnel, any front-row player may use either foot to try to win possession of the ball. One player from the team who put the ball in must strike for the ball.
Sanction: Free-kick
Rationale: To promote a fair contest for possession.

This will be good for: Kevin Bryce and any other hookers converting to prop who’ll know what to do. Props with quick feet. Hookers that don’t hook, who can get the props to do it now.
This will be bad for: hookers that don’t hook, as they might have to in order to avoid a loss of possession.

4. Law 15.4 (c)
The tackler must get up before playing the ball and then can only play from their own side of the tackle “gate”.
Rationale: To make the tackle/ruck simpler for players and referees and more consistent with the rest of that law.

This will be good for: back rows with half a brain.
This will be bad for: James Haskell, and sevens players coming in to XVs who were getting quite used to this form of ruck.

5. Law 16 Ruck
A ruck commences when at least one player is on their feet and over the ball which is on the ground (tackled player, tackler). At this point the offside lines are created. Players on their feet may use their hands to pick up the ball as long as this is immediate. As soon as an opposition player arrives, no hands can be used.
Rationale: To make the ruck simpler for players and referees.

This will be good for: players who can count. Rapid opensides like Hamish Watson who can get the ball away before the second opposition player joins. James Haskell and Dylan Hartley.
This will be bad for: Italy, who can’t make England look silly anymore.

6. Law 16.4: Other ruck offences
A player must not kick the ball out of a ruck. The player can only hook it in a backwards motion.
Sanction: Penalty
Rationale: To promote player welfare and to make it consistent with scrum law.

This will be good for: player’s faces.
This will be bad for: turnover merchants like Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg, as loose balls will now mostly be behind their own line, not in behind the opposition defence.

Click here for the full package of law trials, with slides!

World Rugby reported positive outcomes from the closed trials which 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.

Scrum outcomes:

  • More ball coming back into play with fewer penalties and fewer collapses
  • The ball was thrown in without delay, with 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

Tackle outcomes:

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

A comprehensive analysis was undertaken by the specialist Laws Review Group, the Scrum Steering Group, considering detailed and highly-positive union, player and match official feedback, before the recommendations were approved by the Rugby Committee and subsequently the Executive Committee. The trials were also considered at the high performance match officials and coaches meeting earlier this year.

Rugby Committee Chairman John Jeffrey said of the trials: “These law amendments are designed to improve the experience of those playing and watching the game at all levels and 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.”

Final decisions will be made a year out from the World Cup in 2019.

* apart from Alun Wyn Jones. They don’t care about him.

15 Responses

  1. The changes to the scrum put in have an air of the farcical to them. By simply enforcing the existing scrum laws – straight down the middle of the tunnel, hookers have to hook – you have a fair, safe method of re-starting the game. The put in already favours the team with the put in as their hooker is sitting at the right angle to hook. Now you have increased this advantage, and when the referees forget about it the 9s will be chucking the ball in squint while stood on their loose heads toes. Rugby League scrums…..

    And should this not be extended to line outs? Should the hooker not take a step across to his own team to make the throw in fairer? No, of course not, it’s supposed to be a contested re-start and does fine as it is.

    What would have been more beneficial is to tell referees to enforce the existing laws, and to introduce a change to say that when a ball has been at the 8s feet in excess of two seconds it *must* be played. The intention being to reduce the number of times teams try to milk penalties by having the ball held in while the scrum half waves his hands in the air like a petulant child. The ball is in play longer, paying customers get to see more rugby.

  2. Breaking news: none other than Craig Joubert will be one of the officials joining the new Pro-14, as part of the deal to bring in the Cheetahs and Kings!

    1. Much as we may dislike him, he will be an improvement on some of the clowns armed with whistles we have had to put up with.

    2. Did Joubert not retire from reffing 15s last year? I thought he was only on the 7s circuit now?

  3. Hey Rory good article i just have 1 question.

    Will this prevent us targeting a certain munster mans standing leg ?

      1. This kind of thing is an opportunity to beat the competition.

        If we had a credible player strength and development programme they would have seen this coming. Will the likes of Zander Fagerson be able to adapt, and will our junior clubs/schools introduce advantageous playing styles quick enough?….probably not but here’s hoping.

  4. just saw an interview with jason ohallaran on glasgow warriors youtube page , is it just me or does he look like a slightly more vague Vern Cotter ?

  5. Speaking of jokes and new tactical opportunities… How about heading the ball?

    A way to move it forwards (behind the line), no knock on, and quicker than a kick.

    Would give us an advantage over the SH teams at least!

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Scottish Rugby News and Opinion