Television match officials are set to be handed increased powers and teams are to be give five seconds to us the ball at rucks as part of an extensive trial of Law amendments sanctioned by the International Rugby Board.
Currently TMOs can only be called upon to rule on the act of scoring but as of next season they will also be allowed to offer input on incidents within the field of play that have led to the scoring of a try, and foul play on the field of play.
In addition, the IRB has acted to limit the amount of time that the ball is available at the back of a ruck and from August in the northern hemisphere and January in the southern hemisphere, teams will have five seconds to use possession after being instructed to do so by the referee.
The changes are among five proposed Law amendments and three additional trials to adopted globally having been endorsed by the IRB Council at its annual meeting in Dublin on Tuesday.
They will also see the rules governing the taking of a quick throw-in will also be altered. Players will be able to take a quick throw-in from anywhere outside the field of play between the line of touch and their own goal line, while if an opponent knocks-on into touch the non-offending side can choose a line-out as opposed to the standard scrum.
Conversions will have to be taken within 90 seconds of a try being awarded, and should foul play or a technical offence take place at a line-out then the non-offending side can opt to have a further line-out on their own throw.
Then there are the three additional trials, including the expansion of the TMO’s role. The November Test window will also see international sides allowed to select eight replacements, bringing them in line with domestic competition where an extra front-row substitute is named on the bench.
The final additional trial will be to allow Sevens teams to use up to five replacements during a match as the result of the demands and expansion of the Sevens World Series.
The amendment process was the first steered by an independent Laws Representative Group, made up of representatives from each of the 10 tier one unions and the IRB Rugby Committee. Extensive evaluations of the amendments took place at Cambridge and Stellenbosch Universities earlier this year.
One further amendment, regarding the problem area of the scrum, has been referred to the specialist Scrum Steering Group. The current ‘crouch, touch, pause, engage’ sequence of setting a scrum has come in for heavy criticism, and the group will consider a change to a ‘crouch, touch, set’ sequence that would allow the respective front rows to set the scrum.
IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “We have a collective responsibility to ensure that the Game is as enjoyable to play, officiate and watch as possible at every level while player welfare is of paramount importance.
“Rugby is currently in good health with participation growing around the world, but there is collective responsibility to ensure that a structured process can be implemented to allow for global analysis and to monitor trends relating to the shape and character of the Game as it evolves.
“The Laws Representative Group were encouraged by the outcomes of the initial trials in Cambridge and Stellenbosch. The next step is a global trial with full buy-in and which has been approved by council on the basis that the amendments can have a positive effect on the playing of the game. The global trials are not fait accompli. It is essential at the end of the global trial process that decisions made are in the best interest of rugby worldwide.”
The five Law amendments to be trialled globally 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.
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.
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 touch line; or a scrum at the place of the knock-on. The non-offending team may exercise this option by taking a quick throw-in.
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.
5. A conversion kick must be completed within one minute 30 seconds from the time that a try has been awarded.
In addition to the global trials, the IRB Council approved three specific additional trials:
1. A trial to extend the jurisdiction of the TMO to incidents within the field of play that have led to the scoring of a try and foul play in the field of play to take place at an appropriate elite competition in order that a protocol can be developed for the November 2012 Tests.
2. A trial has been sanctioned for the November 2012 Test window permitting international teams to nominate up to eight replacements in the match day squad for Test matches. In line with current practice at domestic elite Rugby level, the additional player must be a qualified front row player.
3. An amendment to Law 3.4 (Sevens Variation) to enable Sevens teams to nominate up to five replacements/substitutes. Under the revision, which will operate from June 1 2012, a team may substitute or replace up to five players during a match. Approval has been granted on player welfare grounds to recognise the additional demands on players and squads owing to the expansion of the HSBC Sevens World Series where there are three blocks of three events on consecutive weekends.