World Rugby has agreed to trial new rules aimed at making the sport safer and reducing injury rates.
The main focus is on the tackle, which is responsible for 50% of all match injuries and 76% of all concussions.
Six law amendments will be rolled out as closed trials in competitions around the world. They include:
– 50:22 kick: If the team in possession kicks the ball from inside their own half indirectly into touch inside their opponents’ 22 or from inside their own 22 into their opponents’ half, they will throw in to the resultant lineout. This creates space by forcing players to drop back out of the defensive line in order to prevent their opponents from kicking for touch.
– High tackle technique warning: This has already been trialled at the World Rugby U20 Championship for the last two years, reducing the incidence of concussion by more than 50%. It has now been approved for further closed trials.
– Reducing the tackle height to the waist: Forcing players to tackle lower may reduce the risk of head injuries to both the tackler and tackled player.
– Ability to review a yellow card when a player is in the sin-bin for dangerous foul play: This helps ensure that players who are guilty of serious foul play do not escape with a yellow card when they deserved red.
– Introduction of an infringement (penalty and free-kick) limit for teams: Once a team has reached the limit, the last offending player is given a mandatory yellow card as a team sanction.
– Awarding of a goal-line drop-out to the defending team when an attacking player, who brings the ball into in-goal, is held up. This aims to reward good defence and promote a faster rate of play.
If the closed trials are successful, the law amendments could be introduced on a trial basis at the next Rugby World Cup in 2023.
“While injury incidence in the sport is not increasing and concussion incidence is decreasing, we can and must do more to reduce injuries at all levels,” said World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont. “This is an important milestone on that journey.”