I fought the law…..

I fought the law…..

So World Rugby has given the green light for the law changes already in place down south to come into effect from July 1st in the northern hemisphere. You may have missed what the actual changes are so below I’ll have a look and give my take on them.

  • The replacement of a player injured following foul play does not count as one of the allotted number of replacements available to that team.

A very sensible, logical move. There is nothing more frustrating than losing a player and it counting as a sub due to foul play. No Brainer.

  • Play acting or “simulation” is 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.

Already talked about this in a previous post but a good move. I don’t think play acting is a major concern at the moment, it’s more an exception than a rule within the sport but stamping it out early with strong sanctions can only be a good thing.

  • Advantage may be played following a scrum collapse if there is no risk to player safety.

The time taken for scrummaging in the modern game is a huge talking point. Being a front row forward myself, I really can appreciate the “dark arts” and the technical aspect of a scrum. However, I would tend to lean towards scrums just taking up too much time especially at the higher levels of the game. At grassroots, I don’t think it’s too much of a problem. I was worried that WR would listen to calls from some corners to drastically change the scrum (bordering on rugby league style) but I think this change will help to speed up the game, reduce penalties and tidy up the scrum.

  • Teams must be ready to form a scrum within 30 seconds of the scrum being awarded, unless the referee stops the clock for an injury or another stoppage.

I can see what WR are trying to do with this one. A bit like the “use it” law at rucks to speed up the game. However props aren’t renowned for their speed (of thought or body) and are we really going to start penalising any member of the pack who has just had to run perhaps from one end of the pitch to the other and then immediately pack down?

  • At a re-set scrum following a 90-degree wheel, the ball is thrown in by the team that previously threw it in rather than the team not in possession.

Interesting this one. Previously a defending team may try to “whip” a scrum around (especially if under the cosh) in order to gain a put in at the reset. This was horrendously hard for referees to manage as really how can they see who’s really doing what in a scrum? (At grassroots level anyway). Officials were left guessing, which not only annoyed players but could have huge impacts on a game. With this law, it’ll encourage a scrum to drive straight when defending or actually attempt to hook the ball (shock horror).

  • The scrum-half of the team not in possession at a scrum may not move into the space between the flanker and number eight.

Out of everyone this will effect, it’ll be the fly-halves having nightmares. Previously a scrum-half could really hassle a number 8 attempting to pick up the ball from the base, especially at a retreating scrum. Quite often, the ball wasn’t getting away cleanly and was slow. Everything WR is trying to get rid of! With this law change, we should see number 8’s having a lot more freedom to open up from the scrum into the fly-halves channel. This should in turn keep the flankers a bit more honest and focused on breaking away rather than messing around at the set piece.

  • When the ball has been at the number eight’s feet in a stationary scrum for 3-5 seconds, the referee will call “use it” and the attacking team must use the ball immediately.

Another sensible call from WR. Although I’m not sure why they didn’t make it the same as mauls, allowing for one stoppage and a then a secondary drive with the attacking team then having to “use it or lose it”.

And finally what I think is the most interesting change.

  • In addition, an important maul law application guideline, that has been in place in the southern hemisphere since 1 January, will be enforced in the north from 1 June. Specifically, 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 and the ripper needs to stay in contact with the jumper until they have transferred the ball. Sanction: Penalty.

So, no longer will we see a player taking the ball from the jumper and being “squeezed” to the back of the maul. The ball has to be transferred to the back. Now some teams used this method anyway but the “squeeze” method was probably more popular and widely used as in theory, there was less chance for the ball to be lost as it was staying in only one players hands.
How will this change the maul? Well for starters I think it’ll slow them down to be honest. Whereas before the supporting players would basically slide over the top of the ball carrier and that momentum take the maul forward now I think teams won’t get a drive on until that ball is securely at the back of the maul. This will certainly give the defending team more time to try and disrupt. I also think that at grassroots level, officials will have a tough time spotting this infringement without the help of a touch judge (or assistant referees as they are now called).

Will it change the attacking threat of the drive maul? I don’t think so as a well set up maul is virtually impossible to stop legally…and I have no problem with that. A maul may look a bloody mess to others, but (especially forwards) rugby followers understand that setting up and executing a successful drive maul is a very skilful play which requires a lot of perfecting on the training field.

So what do you think of these changes? On the whole, I like what I see. Anything that encourages open, skilful rugby whilst still keeping the value of the core set pieces is good by me.

– The Scrum Down


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