The Rugby Championship returns this weekend and there will be some slight differences to the way that the matches are refereed.

It was announced this week that the tournament will be played under the global law trials that form part of the new six-point plan to advance player welfare and came into effect on 1 August. World Rugby has also sanctioned the use of the 20-minute red card law trial.

So, as South Africa prepare to play their first Rugby Championship fixture for two years and New Zealand bid to defend the title they won in 2020, we look at each of the law trials and why they are being introduced.

50:22

World Rugby is trialling the 50:22 kick in a bid to create more space by encouraging the defending team to keep more players in the backfield. 

Under the trial, the attacking team will be given the throw into the resulting lineout if one of their players kicks the ball from inside their own half indirectly into touch in their opponents’ 22. 

However, the play must originate inside the attacking team’s half, so if the ball is passed or carried back into it they will not be awarded the throw regardless of where it passes the touchline.

Below is an example of a kick that under the law trial would result in a lineout throw for the attacking team. You can read more about all of the global law trials here.

Goal-line drop-out

During the Rugby Championship, if a ball is held up over the goal line, there is a knock-on from an attacking player in the in-goal area or an attacking kick is grounded by a defender in their in-goal, play will restart with a goal-line drop-out from anywhere along the goal line.

The aim of this law trial is to encourage attacking variety, while also increasing ball-in-play time as the kick, which must be taken without delay, replaces a scrum.

Kicking possession to the opposition will also create a counter-attacking opportunity for the receiving team.

Below is an example of when a goal-line drop-out would apply under the law trial. You can read more about all of the global law trials here.

Flying wedge

In response to the prevalence of the so-called ‘flying wedge’ in which the ball carrier latches on to multiple support players prior to making contact with a tackler, the practice will be outlawed under the global law trials.

It is hoped that sanctioning the three person pre-bound mini-scrum will reduce the frequency it is used and help to protect the tackler.

When teams use the ‘flying wedge’ in attack it can mean that one tackler is faced with the combined weight of three opposition players.

Under the law trials the attacking team in the below video would be sanctioned. You can read more about all of the global law trials here.

One-player latch

World Rugby hopes this law trial can help match officials be more consistent in the management of the one-person pre-latched player.

Under the trial a single player who latches onto the ball carrier prior to contact must observe all of the usual requirements for the player arriving to the tackle area first, particularly the need to stay on their feet.

This is to ensure that the defending team has a clear entry to the ball carrier and is able to contest for the ball.

Below is an example of a one-player pre-latch that would result in a penalty in the Rugby Championship this year.

Here is another example where the latching player has stayed on their feet and is legal.

You can read more about all of the global law trials here.

Cleanout and safety of the jackler

In order to reduce the injury risk to the jackler at the breakdown, World Rugby is trialling a sanction of clean-outs that target or drop weight onto the lower limbs.

jackler is defined by the laws of the game as: “The first arriving team-mate of the tackler at the tackle. 

“They must remain on their feet to contest directly onto the ball. If previously involved in the tackle, they must first clearly release the ball carrier before contesting for the ball.”

Below is an example of the type of clean-out that World Rugby is trying to outlaw. You can read more about all of the global law trials here.

Red card replacement

World Rugby has also approved a request from SANZAAR to use the 20-minute red card law trial in this season’s tournament.

As a result, a red-carded player can be replaced by another player once 20 minutes of game time has elapsed. 

If a player has been sin-binned and receives a second yellow card after they return to the pitch, they will receive a red card and can also be replaced after 20 minutes.

A player who has been tactically substituted can return to the field in place of a red-carded player, but a player who has been sent off cannot return in any circumstance.

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