First of all I think it’s important to point out that law amendments are necessary because coaching teams and players are always finding new ways of “bending” the rules of the game, also the game is always evolving so the rules need to keep up too, therefore I don’t mind the laws being changed from time to time.
Before a new law can be passed by the IRB there is a process to go through. First, the various unions from different countries can propose new laws to the IRB, it then goes to a vote in which all the unions say if they are in favour of or against a certain law being passed. If a proposed law has enough votes from the unions then it will usually enter a trial period.
At a recent annual meeting in Dublin, the IRB and the unions have sanctioned global trials for 5 new laws, which will take place from the beginning of next season in both hemispheres, they are;
1. Law 16.7 (Ruck): The ball has to be used within five seconds of it being made available at the back of a ruck with a warning from the referee to “use it”. Sanction – Scrum.
I think everybody in the rugby universe is in favour of this rule being passed and it cant come into the game quick enough. This encourages a much faster game, which makes things more entertaining for the fans. This rule will obviously prevent the tedious waiting around at the back of the ruck waiting for the scrum half to be ready or for him to organize his forwards. Something that Lee Dickson of England was guilty of during the Six Nations was lining up roughly 3 forwards at the back of a ruck to give him more room to perform a box kick, something that the neutral would not enjoy. The only problem with this rule is that there is a grey area as to when the ball is available, although as long as referees are sensible and consistent then there shouldn’t be a problem.
2. 19.2 (b) (Quick Throw-In) For a quick throw in, the player may be anywhere outside the field of play between the line of touch and the player’s goal line.
The rule is also something that will promote a faster game. This now means that instead of having to run back to the mark of where the ball crossed the line, a player can now take a quick throw in where they catch the ball. However I’m not entirely convinced the previous rule was enforced regularly anyway, but even still it’s nice to see an initiative from the IRB that promotes positive rugby.
3. 19.4 (who throws in) when the ball goes into touch from a knock-on, the non-offending team will be offered the choice of a lineout at the point the ball crossed the touchline; or a scrum at the place of the knock-on. The non-offending team may exercise this option by taking a quick throw-in.
Here’s the scenario, a team isn’t having a great day at scrum time and the opposition knock the ball on, but then they win it back because of the oppositions poor scrum which begs the question, have they really been punished for poor play? (Other than a loss of momentum). I think by giving the team an option to take the lineout over the scrum if they wish, increases the likelihood that a team making a mistake will lose possession because of it, hence punishing them and for that reason I think it has a permanent place in the game.
4. 21.4 Penalty and free kick options and requirements: Lineout alternative. A team awarded a penalty or a free kick at a lineout may choose a further lineout, they throw in. This is in addition to the scrum option.
I can’t think of an example where a team would take this over any of the other options especially if it was a penalty awarded. If it was a free kick a team may choose this option if their scrum is functioning well. But for a penalty I can’t see why a team would want to take a lineout where the penalty is, instead of 30 metres further down the field. There are enough rules as it is and I can’t see this one having a major impact so it’s pointless.
5. A conversion kick must be completed within one minute 30 seconds from the time that a try has been awarded.
I’m completely against this rule being passed, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it comes to mind here. There is currently no problem with conversions and hasn’t been any recent controversy. The current rule that a conversion must be taken within 60 seconds of a tee coming onto the field isn’t enforced to the law anyway, so why add another one? Another problem I have with this rule is what if a team score a try in the Heineken cup final to bring them within a point of the opposition in the final moments of the game causing celebrations, is the referee really going to have to stop the kicker taking his kick because he didn’t get it done in time, it seems silly to me.
I think these rules show that the IRB is keen to encourage teams to play with more pace and they are obviously trying to make things more exciting. With the conversion law I can see that they are trying to speed the process up but I just don’t see referee’s enforcing it and I don’t think it will work.
I think the biggest success from these is law 16.7 (ruck) this is what the game needs and I can’t wait to see how teams deal with this, it’s definitely going to make things a lot more exciting and a lot more difficult for scrum halves.
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