• World Rugby U20 Championship and U20 Trophy to trial law variations
  • Trials include simplified red card sanction process, with automatic sanctions
  • Revised TMO process trial will also operate, given additional scope
  • Use of Smart mouthguards in the U20 Championship underscore player welfare commitment

The next generation of global rugby superstars will be at the forefront of laws innovation when the World Rugby U20 Championship and U20 Trophy kick-off in Cape Town on 29 June and Edinburgh on 2 July respectively.

In addition to the three global law amendments operational from 1 July, the key elite player development competitions will operate a package of six closed law trials and a revised TMO protocol trial.

Both competitions will operate the full Head Injury Assessment (HIA) process with the U20 Championship making use of new World Rugby funded smart mouthguard technology which will ensure players who need to be, are examined by a doctor as quickly as possible.


Three law amendments come into effect across the game including:

  • A change of onside from kicks in open play. Players will now be deemed offside when an opposition player catches the ball and runs five metres, or passes the ball. Offside players must now make an attempt to retreat to be put back onside.
  • Teams can no longer take a scrum from a free-kick. Free-kicks must either be tapped or kicked to encourage more ball in flow.
  • Players can no longer roll and twist another player in the tackle area (also called as the “crocodile roll”) and the action will now be sanctioned by a penalty.

In addition, closed law trials are making their debuts in the two age-grade tournaments:

  • A player receiving a red card can be replaced by another player after 20 minutes. The red-carded player cannot return to the field. They will follow automatic off-field red card sanctions unless it is deemed a serious act of foul play which will go to a disciplinary hearing.
  • Teams will have 30 seconds for setting scrum and lineout and a maximum of 60 seconds for conversions which aligns with the time allowed for penalty kicks at goal.
  • The nine can’t be played while the ball is still near a tackle, ruck or maul. The offside line at the scrum for the non-putting in scrum-half will be the middle of the tunnel. This should create cleaner play and keep the ball in flow for longer.
  • Teams can now mark the ball inside the 22m area from a restart.
  • Teams must play the ball after the maul has been stopped once, not twice.
  • If a lineout is not straight but uncontested (i.e. no pod lifted to compete), play will continue.

Finally, a revised TMO process trial will also run:

  • The TMO will have power to identify clear and obvious infringements in the final attacking passage of play before scoring (knock on, forward pass and in touch) and within the final two phases specifically (offside, maul obstruction and tackle complete).
  • The referral can be made by any member of the team of four match officials.
  • Previously, the TMO could only intervene on infringements within the final two phases.
  • All other aspects of the existing protocol will apply.

For the first time players in the U20 Championship will use the new smart mouthguard technology which sends an alert to pitch side doctors if a player experiences a significant head acceleration event. Players who trigger an alert will be taken immediately for an in-game HIA1 exam even if they are showing no symptoms. The mouthguards measure more than just the high acceleration events with data from all contact events in matches and training being recorded to help further deepen understanding of what it means to play elite level rugby.

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “The World Rugby U20 Championship and Trophy play a huge role in developing the next generation of global super stars. The roll call of graduates is impressive with more than 1,600 players having progressed to represent their nations on the world’s biggest stages, including South Africa’s two-time Rugby World Cup winning captain Siya Kolisi, New Zealand’s most-capped player Samuel Whitelock, Argentina captain Julian Montoya and France scrum-half Antoine Dupont.

“In keeping with the next generation mantra, we are excited to be using these competitions to trial new law variations, each determined to increase fan appeal by increasing ball in flow. The single host competition environment gives us the ability for players, coaches and match officials to collaborate to achieve optimal outcomes and the willingness to do that really does demonstrate the best of our sport. Thanks to all involved.”