The amendments relate to the scrum (Law 20, now Law 19), tackle (Law 15, now Law 14) and ruck (Law 16, now Law 15) and are aimed at making the game simpler to play and referee as well as further promoting player welfare.
The amendments are:
1. Scrum: Law 20.5 and 20.6 (d) and Law 20.8 (b) Striking after the throw-in
*The scrum is now Law 19
No signal from referee. The scrumhalf must throw the ball in straight but is allowed to align his shoulder on the middle line of the scrum, therefore allowing him to stand a shoulder width towards his own side of the middle line.
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.
What we will see: every team MUST hook the ball as part of the scrum feed. If they don’t, expect to see some Free Kicks against the feeding team.
2. Scrum: Law 20.9 (b) Handling in the scrum – exception
The No.8 shall be allowed to pick the ball from the feet of the second-rows.
Rationale: To promote continuity.
What we will see: this will help teams under pressure when going backwards.
3. Tackle: Law 15.4 (c)
*The tackle is now Law 14
The tackler must get up before playing the ball and then can play only from his own side of the tackle “gate”.
What we will see: cleaner ball at the back of the tackle and all players having to comply with the “gate” at the tackle.
4. Ruck: Law 16
*The ruck is now Law 15
A ruck commences when at least one player is on his 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 may be used.
What we will see: team in possession will send a support player in fast, in order to then clear the ball with an offside line now in operation (will force the defenders to get back onside quickly!). The first defender can still arrive and have an immediate go at the ball – so he can still win a quick turnover.
5. Ruck: 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.
What we will see: the elimination of what is a very negative play to interfere with the attacking team’s ball at ruck time.
The law amendments will now join the scheduled global law trial programme, completing a total package of 11 aspects of law.