World Rugby Set To Trial New Laws Next Year In Attempt To Speed Up Game

Ireland's Billy Holland receives the ball from a lineout

World Rugby is to trial a number of new laws aimed at speeding up the game and keeping the ball in play for longer.

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Among the changes, to be trialled from 1 January 2017 in the southern hemisphere and from 1 August 2017 in the north, is the decision to award seven points for a penalty try, without the need for a conversion.

Another amendment would see teams allowed to kick a penalty to touch when the clock has entered overtime, and be allowed to take the lineout throw. This also means that a defending team that wins a penalty would have to play the ball first before kicking to touch, or else have to go through with the line-out, risking a turnover.

IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 Pool Stage Pool A England v Wales Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, United Kingdom - 26 Sep 2015

Where a team commits multiple penalties in a phase of play, the opposing team will get to pick the most advantageous mark.

Another law change sees the game continuing where a player jumps and knocks the ball back into the playing area, even if it has crossed the touch or touch-in-goal line.

World Rugby are also aiming to discourage teams from manufacturing uncontested scrums and all scrums will have to have eight players regardless of whether a pack is missing a player after a red card, sin-binning or injury.

The new laws have been trialled on a closed basis in various competitions around the world, and were approved by World Rugby Council in London this week.

Rugby 2013 - British & Irish Lions v Australian Wallabies - 2nd Test

The Lions tour to New Zealand next summer will be played under the new rules.


The law changes set to be trialled globally are:

Law 3 Number of Players

Uncontested scrums as a result of a sending off, temporary suspension or injury must be played with eight players per side.

Reasoning: To discourage teams from going to uncontested scrums.

Law 5 Time

If a penalty is kicked into touch after time has elapsed without touching another player, the referee allows the throw-in to be taken and play continues until the next time the ball becomes dead.

Reasoning: To discourage teams from infringing in the dying moments of the game.

Law 8 Advantage

When there are multiple penalty infringements by the same team, the referee may allow the captain of the non-offending team to choose the most advantageous of the penalty marks.

Reasoning: To discourage repeat offending when advantage is already being played and to reward teams against whom repeat offending has taken place.

Law 9 Method of Scoring

Penalty Try. If a player would probably have scored a try but for foul play by an opponent, a penalty try is awarded. No conversion is attempted. Value: 7 points

Reasoning: To discourage teams from illegally preventing a probable try from being scored while also saving time on the clock by negating the need for a conversion.

Law 19 Touch and Lineout

A player who is attempting to bring the ball under control is deemed to be in possession of the ball.

Reasoning: This brings into law something that is already applied in practice. It means that a player “juggling” the ball does not have to be in contact with it at the exact moment of touching the touchline or the ground beyond it for the ball to be deemed to be in touch. This makes it easier for the match officials to adjudicate.

Amend eighth definition: If a player jumps and knocks the ball back into the playing area (or if that player catches the ball and throws it back into the playing area) before landing in touch or touch-in-goal, play continues regardless of whether the ball reaches the plane of touch.

Reasoning: To simplify law and to increase ball-in-play time.

Add to definitions: If the ball-carrier reaches the plane of touch but returns the ball to the playing area without first landing in touch, play continues.

Reasoning: To simplify law and to increase ball-in-play time.

In this case, if the ball has passed the plane of touch when it is caught, then the catcher is not deemed to have taken the ball into touch. If the ball has not passed the plane of touch when it is caught or picked up, then the catcher is deemed to have taken the ball into touch, regardless of whether the ball was in motion or stationary.

Reasoning: To simplify law and to increase ball-in-play time.