As the Six Nations round two fixtures are set to kick off on Saturday, February 11, the law variations that were announced prior to the 2023 Championship launch last week are again being monitored by rugby observers.
These include; a shot clock for placekickers, shortened time before a lineout and scrum is formed, fewer water carrier interruptions, reduced reliance on the TMO, and penalizing negative actions from both attacking and defending players.
Most are reliant [as per usual] on the referee’s interpretation, while several are designed to control time wasting and reduce instructions from the coaches (via water carriers). The Six Nations organizers are taking World Rugby’s direction, as well as enforcing new controls, to speed up the game and to see fewer stoppages that often see frustrated fans call for change. Applicable to the men’s championship, women’s Tik Tok championship, and the Under 20 competitions.
These ‘improvements’ should produce a better product, although Last Word on Rugby and other observers did not see a complete example of what Six Nations rugby might have preferred to provide in Round One last week.
Some still noticed delaying tactics by teams forming for lineouts/scrums, as well as slow placement of the ball and what appeared to be time-wasting during kicks from players. What is new you say? Yet if the Six Nations and World Rugby really wanted the product to be ‘faster’ then why did they not have them all in place for the professional domestic competitions began in 2022?
Six Nations round two: Law variations in play for 2023 Championship
Ahead of every Six Nations Championship, the organizers implement new law variations. These are mainly proposed by World Rugby, and adopted for International rugby. What also usually happens is, that players can become adept at these requirements over the early rounds of domestic leagues; such as the Gallagher Premiership, French Top14, and the United Rugby Championship (formerly PRO14). In this year’s case, some have not been trialed, so it may be no wonder that some players failed to promote those controls.
Some occasions looked more than obvious to observers. Last Word on Rugby senior contributor Rob Rees noticed teams delaying lineout formations, in the face of the well-promoted law variations. Tactics that these changes were designed to limit must be improved on for Six Nations round two fixtures – otherwise what was the point of World Rugby’s proposals?
From the December 22 media release, World Rugby stated that “Players and match officials are reminded of the following existing laws which must be strictly adhered to:
- Law 8.8d Conversion. [The kicker] takes the kick within 90 seconds (playing time) from the time the try was awarded, even if the ball rolls over and has to be placed again. Sanction: Kick is disallowed.
- Law 8.21: Penalty Kick: The kick must be taken within 60 seconds (playing time) from the time the team indicated their intention to do so, even if the ball rolls over and has to be placed again. Sanction: Kick is disallowed and a scrum is awarded.
- Law 9.7d: A player must not waste time. Sanction Free Kick
- Law 18.12 Lineout: Teams form the lineout without delay. Sanction: Free-kick.
- Law 19.4 Scrum: Teams must be ready to form the scrum within 30 seconds of the mark being made. Sanction: Free-kick.”
The whole sport is encouraged to apply these guidelines to speed up the game and elite matches competitions will be encouraged to use a “shot clock” as trialed in the LNR/ FFR competitions when practically possible.
The Law Application Guidelines applied this year will be in effect for the Six Nations
Referee Matthew Carley on how the breakdown will be managed pic.twitter.com/8gAjkEj0ij
— World Rugby (@WorldRugby) February 3, 2023
World Rugby Director of Rugby Phil Davies said: “World Rugby, member unions and competitions will work with broadcasters and match hosts to implement on-screen (stadia and broadcast) shot clocks for penalties and conversions to ensure referees, players, and fans can view the countdown, mirroring what happens in the LNR and Sevens.”
To clarify why International players may not be adapting so quickly, the domestic competitions – including European Professional Rugby Club leagues, and Champions Cup/Challenge Cup – were because they had already begun in 2022. Yet the adaptation can only be ‘formed naturally’ as players are faced with these controls week-in, week-out. Not just for five rounds of International rugby!
So if anything, it was the administrator’s role to implement the above controls across all professional rugby, not just Six Nations.
Players must adapt for Six Nations round two fixtures
Team management must have been well aware of the new controls, and must therefore promote that within their training and matchday squads. There is little reason why any team approaching a lineout or assembling for a scrum would not be prepared to act with haste. Or would any of the kickers across the six national sides, delay their actions when readying for a conversion, penalty, or even to make a free kick?
The perfect example is Bernard Foley in 2022, who delayed his free-kick attempt and was duly penalized. That should become the accepted norm.
To do so, weekly matches over different regions are the best method, so learnings from this for organizers is to implement the controls over more games, prior to the start of Six Nations; and for all International matches. Not only via a video session placed on social media.
Then the players have their roles. To be the initiators of change – not yet about the Tackle Law height change proposals. That is another conversation entirely for the English community game at least. Those changes are not applicable to Six Nations, but speeding up the game most certainly is.
This weekend’s fixtures have as much to do with the ambitions of teams to win the 2023 Guinness Six Nations, as it does with World Rugby wanting to promote (in their words), “the guidelines, which are designed to assist match officials, players, and coaches and to enhance fan experience are part of a drive by the international federation to speed up the game and reflect key outcomes of the Shape of the Game Conference in November.”
Let’s hope a fair middle ground is found, and players can adjust right over both domestic and International matches.
Six Nations round two fixture list:
Ireland v France – Saturday, February 11. Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Scotland v Wales – Sat, Feb 11. Murrayfield, Edinburgh
England v Italy – Sunday, Feb 12. Twickenham, England
“Main photo credit”
Embed from Getty Images