Rugby Championship law variations

Rugby Championship law variations

Before you get confused this weekend, make sure you are well versed with the Rugby Championship law variations that will be in place.

World Rugby’s Global law variations will make their first appearance in the Rugby Championship. It will be interesting to see how welcoming the general rugby viewing public will be of the law variations. New Zealand and Australia have both been exposed to them, but it will be a first for South African and Argentinian fans.

Rugby Championship law variations to come into effect

The law variations can be broken up into two groups. The first group deals with general play and the second group deals with the sanctions for foul play.

General play variations

  • 50:22: If the team in possession kicks the ball from their own half indirectly into touch inside their opponents’ 22, they will throw into the resultant lineout. The ball cannot be passed or carried back into the defensive half for the 50:22 to be played. The phase must originate inside the defensive half.
  • Goal line drop-out: If the ball is held up in-goal, there is a knock-on from an attacking player in in-goal or an attacking kick is grounded by the defenders in their own in-goal, then play restarts with a goal-line drop-out anywhere along the goal line.
  • Flying Wedge: To sanction the three-person pre-bound mini-scrum by redefining the flying wedge.
  • 1 man latch: To recognize the potential for 1-player pre-latching prior to contact, but this player must observe all of the requirements for a first arriving player, particularly the need to stay on their feet.
  • Cleanout and safety of the Jackler: To introduce a sanction for cleanouts which target or drop weight onto the lower limbs.

Foul play variations

  • If a player is red-carded, they may be replaced after 20 minutes by another player. The 20mins from when a player is red-carded to when they may be replaced is measured as “game time”. This follows the same measurement of time already in place for a yellow-carded player in the sin bin (mean sin bin clock is stopped when the game clock is stopped).
  • A player receives a yellow card and is sin-binned for 10mins. If the same player, then returns to the field after serving their 10 mins suspension and subsequently receives a 2nd yellow card, which equates to an automatic red card. After a further 20 mins the red-carded player can be replaced.
  • A player who has been tactically replaced is able to return to the field to replace a red-carded player.
  • Any red carded player cannot return under any circumstance.

The detail above is as supplied by SANZAAR. For those who seek further clarity on the law variations, it can be found here.

Key takeouts of the Rugby Championship law variations

Most of these law variations are well known through previous trials. There are a few key takeouts that are worth mentioning.

Player safety at the breakdown

Protecting the player attempting to effect a turnover is important. We have seen too many serious knee injuries caused by legs being targeted when a player is sticking to the law of carrying their own weight. Cleaners hitting the outside of the knee can cause career-ending injury.

Red card variation

This one might cause a little controversy. There are pundits and fans who believe that if a player has earned a red card, the team should accept the sanction and deal with it as discipline is one of the foundations of rugby. This is not the reality in professional sport though. If a player is shown the red card, they face further sanction at their citing hearing on Tuesday. The team, the fans in the stadium and the millions following the game on television or streaming it are robbed of a true contest. This is especially relevant when the decision to red card a player is debatable in the first place.

The 50:22 rule

The 50:22 rule is well-intended. It is also a bit of a contradiction. The intent is to force the team not in possession to drop a defensive player back to cover for the kick under this law variation. The defensive player sacrificed is theoretically supposed to open up more space for the team in possession. In a game that has recently attracted massive negative comment about being too dependent on kicking, it seems a bit perverse that kicking is thought to be part of the solution. Teams already strong on kicking might just have a slight advantage here.

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It might seem like watching a slightly different game this weekend. Let’s see what it delivers.

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