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History of the Laws of Rugby Football

The First Rules

The work to draw up the first rules of Rugby football started on 25 August 1845 and ended on 28th August. The work was done by three senior pupils at Rugby School after they received instructions to codify the game of Football. 

The three pupils were William Delafield Arnold, the seventeen year old son of the former headmaster, W.W. Shirley, who was just sixteen and Frederick Hutchins.

1845 laws

They submitted 37 Rules to the Sixth Levee; they were immediately passed and a Rule Book was printed. The rules were updated regularly over the coming years, in 1846-7 for example a large committee met to review and revise the rules but only a few minor changes were made.

In 1862 an attempt was made to "codify the customs" See 1862 Rules.

The 1871 Laws

On 26th January, 1871, The Rugby Football Union was founded in the Pall Mall Restaurant in Regent Street, London, to standardize the rules that also removed some of the more violent aspects of the Rugby School game.

Along with the founding of the Rugby Football Union a committee was formed, and three ex-Rugby School pupils (Rutter, Holmes and L.J. Maton), all lawyers, were invited to help formulate a set of rules, being lawyers they formulated 'laws' not 'rules'.

  rutter holmes maton  
 
Algernon Rutter
President 1871-74
(Richmond)
E C Holmes
(Richmond)
L J Maton
President 1875-76
(Wimbledon Hornets)
 

Most of the work was done by Maton as he broke his leg playing rugby and was laid up so he attempted the first draft. He did this in Holmes' law chambers. This task was completed and the laws were accepted by the full committee on 22 June 1871, and brought into force by a Special General Meeting 2 days later. The laws outlawed the practice of hacking and tripping.

1871 laws

Six Scottish clubs i.e. Glasgow Academicals, Edinburgh University in 1871 and Edinburgh Academicals, Royal High School and Edinburgh Wanderers in 1872, recognized that this new code was more comprehensive and up to date than their own 'Green book' and adopted it, as well as becoming members of the RFU.

Laws used for the first International

Reference: The Glasgow Herald March 25, 1871 which reported that the match would use the Rugby School rules with two minor alterations (both which were customary in the London area):
1. The ball, on going into touch, is to be thrown into the ground again from the spot where it crossed the line, and not where it first pitched into touch.

2. For a try at goal, the ball is brought out in a straight line from where it was touched down. (This would eliminate the alternative choice of punting it out after a touch down).

In the London area there was a generally-observed rule that a player could gather up a ball whether rolling or bounding. Scottish clubs only allowed it in the latter case and this was agreed for the first international.

Formation of the Rugby International Board (IB)

In 1884 England played Scotland at Blackheath, in the second half, Kindersley of England was awarded a try by Irish Referee A Scriven. This was hotly disputed by Scotland since C.W. Berry (Scotland) had knocked the ball back immediately before Kindersley picked it up and this was illegal in the eyes of the Scots, but not the English. An important point to note was that the advantage law was not introduced until 1896 and so if this was illegal, then play had to stop. It was agreed to continue the game and refer this to the Rugby Union Committee afterwards. However, the SRU and the RFU could not agree and the match the following year was not scheduled as a result. Read further article by Peter Shortell

When the Irish Union met for their AGM in 1885 they recommended that the 4 home unions meet and discus forming a body to settle any such international disputes. The unions then met in Dublin in 1886 and at that meeting Scotland offered to drop their dispute to the 1884 result if England joined such an international body which composed and equal number of representatives from each union. The international board was then inaugurated in Manchester in 1886 but the RFU were not represented and would not accept the constitutional terms the IB was established under.

When the RFU amended their laws, the other unions did not accept this and referred the decision to the IB. The RFU then offered to allow representatives of the other unions to their committee meetings but this was ignored.

In December 1887 the IB made a statement that IB rules must apply to all international matches and that no games with England would be arranged until they joined the IB. Therefore no games were played in 1888 and 1889.

The dispute then went to arbitration and Lord Kingsburgh, the Lord Justice Clerk and Major Marindin, president of the Football Association met in April 1890 and made a judgment which recognised the claim of Scotland, Ireland and Wales to share in the making of laws and thereby formalized the Rugby International Board. Henceforth all international games were played under the IB rules. Due to the size of the English union it was awarded 6 members on the board whereas the other unions got 2 a piece. A simple majority vote would be used to settle any future disputes but a three-forths majority would be required to modify the laws.

On Feb 8th, 1892 the Rugby International Board met. Discussions included a plan for a systematic revision of the laws, an agreement to fix the qualification criteria for playing internationally for a country, an agreement to for secretaries of the various unions to meet to avoid schedulling conflicts.

Members present were:

R.S.Warren (Ireland) in the chair, E. McAllister (secretary) (Ireland), J.A> Smith and R.G.Raine (Scotland), A.J.Gould and W.D.Phillips (Wales), and Rowland-Hill, J McLaren, M Newsome, J.R.S. Whalley, J Budd and W.Cail (England).

In 1910 the RFU volunteered to reduce its IB votes from 6 to 4.

Until 1930 each union had its own set of laws for its home matches. In 1930 England proposed and Ireland seconded that "all matches should be played under the laws of the International board.

Report on law changes 1931-32 by E. H. D. Sewell

Advert placed in The Sunday Post 20th January 1935

In 1947 New Zealand, Australia and South Africa were admitted with 2 votes each, then given to all member unions. France were admitted in 1978 and in 1991 Argentina, Canada, Italy and Japan were admitted.

So as of 2006 the IRB consists of the eight foundations Unions each with two seats - Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and France. Argentina, Canada, Italy and Japan each have one seat on the Council as does FIRA-AER.

Red and Yellow cards

The system of using yellow and red cards by the referee was invented by a Association Football referee Ken Ashton.

Aston thought of the yellow and red cards while sitting at a traffic light after attending the 1966 World Cup quarter-final between England and Argentina. Newspapers had reported that both Jack and Bobby Charlton had been booked, but there was no public indication of this from the referee. The Argentinian captain Antonio Rattin had to be led off the field after being sent off as he apparently didn't understand what was happening. Aston pondered how to make the position clearer. "As I drove down Kensington High Street, the traffic light turned red. I thought, 'Yellow, take it easy; red, stop, you're off'."

The idea was subsequently adopted by Association football at national and international level. Red and yellow cards were introduced to the game at the World Cup finals in Mexico in 1970.

In 1976, colored cards made their first appearance at League matches. However, there was still resistance from some quarters. Players complained that referees were showing the cards too often. The cards were removed between 1981 and 1987. The game became more messy so the referees and the administrators had to get together to define some ground rules for the use of the yellow and red cards. The cards returned to the field in 1988 but it wasn't until 1992 that the cards were actually incorporated into the Laws of the Game and made mandatory at all levels. Ken Ashton died aged 86 on October 23, 2001.

Yellow cards are also in use in other sports, such as volleyball, women's lacrosse, field hockey, rugby union, rugby league in many countries, and handball.

In both rugby codes, a player shown a yellow card is suspended from the game for 10 minutes (colloquially termed being sent to the 'sin bin', although neither Rugby nor Ice Hockey where the concept came from, call it a 'sin bin'). The bin lasts ten minutes within a single eighty minute game. It is playing time, it stops when the clock is stopped for injury, and does not expire at the end of the first half.

Piet Robbertse, a Test and Currie Cup Final referee and later the chairman of South African referees recounts a time when Bertie Strasheim, a top referee in the Sixties who refereed Tests and the 1968 Currie Cup Final, was once refereeing a game where he ordered a prop to sit on the touch-line till he called him back, which he did after three minutes or so. Strasheim did this as there was no middle measure between letting the nuisance stay on the field and sending him off.

Robbertse says this provoked a lot of discussion and Dr Craven tested the idea in his law laboratory at Stellenbosch where there is the highly competitive internal league.

Then South Africa proposed the concept of a 'cooler' to the International Rugby Board in 1972 but the idea was rejected. They proposed it again in 1975 and again it was rejected. But in 1979 South Africa was given dispensation to use and report on the introduction of 'the cooler'. It was allowed in domestic competition in South Africa but did not apply to matches involving teams from abroad. (Two years later rugby league in New South Wales adopted the use of the sin bin.)

The 'cooler' was not intended for repeated infringement or what has come to be called professional/cynical infringement. It was intended to do what the name suggests - cool down a player who was getting heated under the collar. It was originally set to five minutes' duration.

Eventually the sin bin or temporary suspension was introduced into the game. It was used under dispensation in the Southern Hemisphere and then on 29 January 2000 it was included in the experimental law variations that followed the 1999 Rugby World Cup (set to 10 minutes). The sin bin was then used in the Six Nations that year for the first time.

A red card is a sending off as it is in Association football.

It has been possible to send a play off since 1888 when it was written down that a player should be sent off for foul play, however, the showing of a red card is a relatively recent addition. There has also been instructions to deal with deliberate infringement i.e. 1911: Referees must deal very sharply with all cases of this nature, as this has been a growing practice through players deciding to take the risk of a penalty to gain or save a try by unfair play. This practice is so contrary to the spirit of the game, that the Board have decided to deal with it upon the same footing as rough or foul play or misconduct.

The new law stated:

10.6 YELLOW AND RED CARDS
(a) When a player has been cautioned and temporarily suspended in an
International match the referee will show that player a yellow card.
(b) When a player has been sent off in an International match, the referee
will show that player a red card.
(c) For other matches the Match Organiser or Union having jurisdiction over
the match may decide upon the use of yellow and red cards.

The first yellow card shown in an international was during the All blacks 1995 tour of France when Irish referee Gordon Black showed it to the All blacks lock Mark Cooksley after he'd punched an opponent in a midweek match at Nancy. The ref later found out that it had yet to be introduced officially but it was shortly afterwards.

The first 'official' recipient of a yellow card in a Test match was Ben Clarke, playing for England against Ireland at Lansdowne Road. He stamped on his Bath club mate Simon Geoghegan in the 63rd minute and was shown a yellow card, but played on. Playing on after a yellow card remained law till after the 1999 Rugby World Cup. Then temporary suspension of ten minutes was introduced, signalled by the brandishing of a yellow card.

The first yellow card shown at a world cup was to Argentina's Roberto Grau (ARG) by referee Paddy O'Brien in the 15th minute of the match against Wales in Cardiff at RWC 1999, whereas, Italian Alessandro Moscardi holds the record for most yellow cards at a world cup. At RWC 1999, Moscardi was sent to the sin bin in matches against England, Tonga and New Zealand.

The first player sent off in a world cup match was Wales' Hugh Richards - by referee Kerry Fitzgerald in the 71st minute of the semi-final against New Zealand in Brisbane at RWC 1987.

Incidentally, the French at one stage had a white card as well. Yellow and red were for varying degrees of foul play, the white card for law infractions. The white card has subsequently disappeared.

Replacements/substitutions

The Replacement of injured players was added to the 1968-69 Laws (law 12: up to two players per team).

Mike Gibson replaced Barry John in the Lion’s first test against South Africa in 1968 was the first official replacement in a test match (although replacements happened unofficially in New Zealand, South Africa and Australia before that.

Tactical substitutions were introduced in 1996 (three replacements).

Modern Laws (provided by the IRB)

Note: For the latest laws, amendments and regulations visit the IRB website, there is a wealth of information there, well worth a visit.

Laws:

2013 IRB Laws
2012 IRB Laws
2011 IRB Laws
2010 IRB Laws
2009 IRB Laws
2008 IRB Laws
2007 IRB Laws
2006 IRB Laws
2005 IRB Laws
2003 IRB Laws

Dec 2010 - Law Amendments
Dec 2009 - Recommended Law Amendments from Rulings
Dec 2009 - Law Book Review Amendments - Sevens
Dec 2009 - Law Book Review Amendments, Special Council Meeting
July 2009 - Law Amendment to Law 3
May 2009
Nov 2004
Apr 2004
Apr 2003 - Special Council Meeting
Apr 2003 - Law Amendments
2003 Directives - Law Amendments
Nov 2002 - Law Amendments
Apr 2002 - Law Amendments

IRB Law Clarifications/Rulings:

Date Ruling No. Request by Laws Affected Description Included into Law
12 Sep 13 2013-1 IRFU 9 The Irish Rugby Football Union has requested clarification that apart from a kicking tee no other item or implement may be used.
15 Nov 12 2012-3 IRFU 3 Clarification on Law 3.14(d)
10 Jul 12 2012-2 RFU 3, 5 & 8 Clarification of Law 3.11(b), Law 5.7(e) and Law 8.3(f)
11 Apr 12 2012-1 FFR 22 Grounding of the ball whilst feet in touch
4 Nov 11 2011-04 ARU 12 Ball ripped from ball carrier by opponent (Not currently on iRB Laws site)
4 Nov 11 2011-03 ARU 11 10m Law application after ball 'touched' (Not currently on iRB Laws site)
4 Nov 11 2011-02 ARU 17 Maul going to ground (Not currently on iRB Laws site)
18 May 11 2011-01 RFU 3 Front row replacement in uncontested scrums
19 Mar 10 2010-03 WRU 22 Doubt about grounding
11 Mar 10 2010-02 WRU 13 Restart at end of match
10 Mar 10 2010-01 IRFU 3 Front row replacement in uncontested scrums
11 Nov 09 2009-09 IRFU 19 Receiver running into gap at lineout
16 Oct 09 2009-08 SRU 10 Obstruction at maul following a lineout
25 Aug 09 2009-07 USAR 10/16 binding when joining a ruck
10 Aug 09 2009-06 ARU 20/LAG^ U19 Numbers in the scrum 2009
10 Aug 09 2009-05 RFU 3 Uncontested scrums and all replacements used
11 May 09 2009-04 ARU/NZRU 15/16 Playing ball legally before ruck forms - Can player continue to handle ball? 2009
08 Apr 09 2009-03 FFR 5 Scrum Collapse after time/Lineout offence after time 2010
16 Oct 09 2009-02 Rev SARU 22 Simultaneous grounding and touch in-goal 2009
07 Apr 09 2009-02 SARU 22 Simultaneous grounding and touch in-goal
19 Mar 09 2009-01 RFU 12 Quick throw after a knock on into touch 2010
24 Sept 08 2008-04 RFU 17 Defence voluntarily leaving a maul
13 May 08 2008-03 NZRU 20 No.8 Shove on scrum engagement 2009
13 May 08 2008-02 ARU 3 Uncontested scrum sanctions
21 Jan 08 2008-01 RFU 22 Stationary & moving ball clarification 2009
1 Oct 07 2007-03 GRU 16 Defence voluntarily leaving a ruck
12 Mar 07 2007-02 IRFU 3 Substitutions at a penalty kick
17 Feb 07 2007-01 RFU 20 Scrum Engagement at all age levels
29 Nov 06 2006-09 FFR 17 Tackling the ball carrier in the maul
29 Nov 06 2006-08 FFR 16 Diving over players on the ground at a ruck
14 Nov 06 2006-07 SRU 10 Flying Wedge Question
14 Nov 06 2006-06 IRFU 10 Tackle that starts low but ends high 2009
14 Nov 06 2006-05 FFR 4 Definition of Jersey, shorts & underwear
14 Nov 06 2006-04 SARU 4 Elastic long sleeves with manufacturers mark
06 May 06 2006-03 FFR 3/LAG U19 - Do locks require suitable training?
10 Jan 06 2006-02 FFR 19/21 Penalty kick for goal hits post and goes into touch
10 Jan 06 2006-01 FFR 13/18 Mark after a restart
25 Oct 05 2005-07 ARU 20 Scrum half offside line at scrum 2009
30 Sep 05 2005-06 ARU 3 Re-request of clarification to ruling 2005-04
30 Sep 05 2005-05 IRFU 10 Spear Tackles 2009
15 Aug 05 2005-04 ARU 3 Front row replacements after a temporary suspension
30 Jun 05 2005-03 FPR 21 Intention to kick for goal, then take a quick tap
01 Apr 05 2005-02 FFR 6 Non player touching the ball in the field of play
01 Apr 05 2005-01 IRFU 16 Rucking the ball and other players 2009
24 Dec 04 2004-10 WRU 19/21 Quick throw taken into 22m & Propelling ball with thigh
23 Dec 04 2004-09 IRFU 10/22 Penalty try & Temporary Suspension
01 Sep 04 2004-08 JRFU 15 Other players in a tackle 2009
23 Jun 04 2004-07 SRU 19 Receiver in the line out 2009
04 Jun 04 2004-06 FFR 3 Front row replacements
04 Jun 04 2004-05 ARU 19 Receiver in the line out
24 May 04 2004-04 RFU 19 Receiver in the line out 2009
20 Feb 04 2004-03 JRFU 15 Players not going to ground in a tackle 2009
10 Jan 04 2004-02 FIR 3/19 Front row replacements & Played into own 22m
20 Jan 04 2004-01 WRU 3/14 Player laying on ground tackling & Front row replacements 2009
02 Sep 03 2003-14 UAR 19 Picking up a stationary ball outside the 22m with feet in 22m 2009
18 Aug 03 2003-13 SRU 15 Tackler not going to ground 2009
05 Aug 03 2003-12 RFU 3 Front row replacements
24 Jul 03 2003-11 NZRU 15/17 Forming & collapsing a maul
24 Jul 03 2003-10 NZRU 3 Blood bin over half time
24 Jul 03 2003-09 IRFU 3 Front row replacements
20 Jan 03 2003-08 IRFU 15/17 Tackling a player in a maul
03 Jul 03 2003-07 UAR 10/19 Heading a ball into touch
03 Jul 03 2003-06 SRU 17 Players forming a maul in specific order
27 Jun 03 2003-05 ARU 3 Front row replacements
12 Jun 03 2003-04 NZRU 3 Front row replacements
07 Jun 03 2003-03 SRU 15/17 Tackling the player in the maul
07 Jun 03 2003-02 SRU 3 Front row replacement management
15 Jan 03 2003-01 SARU 19 Receiver in the line out 2009
15 Nov 02 2002-09 Dutch Rugby Union 19 Receiver in the line out 2009
29 Oct 02 2002-08 Rugby Canada 20 Position of locks head in a scrum
01 Oct 02 2002-07 FPR 13 Ball kicked into touch from a kick off, but has not travelled 10m
05 Sep 02 2002-06 IRFU 6/21 Quick tap from a scrum FK or PK
05 Sep 02 2002-05 IRFU 19 Receiver in the line out
23 Jul 02 2002-04 WRU 6/8/10 Quick tap from a scrum FK or PK
23 Jul 02 2002-03 RFU 19 Receiver in the line out
17 May 02 2002-02 RFU 19 Peeling off from the line out
20 Mar 02 2002-01 SRU 3 Clarification of 15 min blood bin

Full Regulations:

2011
2008
2007

Evolution of modern laws

"The History of the Laws of Rugby Football" pub 1949 contains 241 pages of changes to the laws that have occurred over the years. "The History of the Laws of Rugby Football 1949 - 1972 contains a further 83 pages.

As you can see although the basic principles remain the same today, extensive attempts have been made over decades to refine the laws, remove ambiguity and improve the enjoyment and safety of the game.

An interesting chapter in the development of the laws was the creation of "The Laws in Plain English" read the full story here.

2012 Law Amendment Trials

The following Law amendments have been approved for global trial by the IRB Council. The implementation dates are the start of the Northern Hemisphere season at or around September 1st 2012 and the start of the Southern Hemisphere season at or around January 1st 2013. It is not intended that the a Union should implement the trial Law amendments mid season or mid competition. Unions will be given the opportunity to provide both quantitative and qualitative feedback on the trials.

2012 Law Amendment Trials - Detail

2004 - 2009 Experimental Law Variations (ELVs)

August, 2009

The ELV Conference in March 2009 expressed a concern that the maul can be observed to be, and actually can be, a form of ‘legalised obstruction’. This is evidenced by players at the back of an elongated maul holding the ball whilst the maul moves forward (‘truck and trailer’).

An IRB working group concluded:

1. The maul must be formed so that the opposition can contest the maul at the formation; this includes the formation of the maul at a lineout and from a maul formed after kick-offs or restart kicks. (Match Officials were instructed to apply this from May 2009 - a DVD was circulated to all match elite match officials and Referee Managers.) Mauls from open play should be refereed in the same way as mauls formed at lineouts or from restart kicks.

2. A player may have both hands on the ball and be bound into the maul by other players involved in the maul.

3. If a player takes the ball in a formed maul and detaches whilst the players in the maul continue going forward, they are obstructing the opposition if that player continues moving forward using the players in front as a shield.

4. If the ball carrying team in the maul is moved backwards at or immediately after the formation, Law 17.6 (d) and (e) should apply :

"(d) When a maul has stopped moving forward for more than five seconds, but the ball is being moved and the referee can see it, a reasonable time is allowed for the ball to emerge. If it does not emerge within a reasonable time, a scrum is ordered.
(e) When a maul has stopped moving forward it may start moving forward again providing it does so within 5 seconds. If the maul stops moving forward a second time and if the ball is being moved and the referee can see it, a reasonable time is allowed for the ball to emerge. If it does not emerge within a reasonable time, a scrum is ordered."

If the maul is moved backwards, match officials currently do not apply Law 17.6 (d) at the maul formation. If they did so it would only allow one more movement forward and it may encourage the non-ball-carrying side to commit to the maul at its formation.
Match officials also permit mauls to move sideways and do not apply 17.6 (d) and (e). Strict application may assist.
If the referee says "use it" the ball must be used and restarting the maul is not an option.

5. The concern about ‘truck and trailer’ is not about the ball being one or two players back from the ball carrier when the maul is moving forward, as that replicates a scrum. The concern is about the player ‘hanging’ on the back of the maul. Strict application of the definition of a bind may assist in resolving this issue:

“Binding. Grasping firmly another player’s body between shoulders and the hips with the whole arm in contact from hand to shoulder”.

If the ball carrier player does not bind in this way, the maul is considered to be over and match officials insist the ball is used. If the player rejoins and binds on the players in front, the team should be penalised for obstruction. This may encourage players to bind appropriately.

The official document can be obtained here.

February, 2010 - Charging into a ruck

Players entering a ruck must do so in accordance with the Laws of the Game. Referees are reminded that appropriate binding is a requirement, and charging into a ruck is dangerous play and must be penalised as such. Video examples can be seen here.

16.2 JOINING A RUCK
(b) A player joining a ruck must bind on a team-mate or an opponent, using the whole arm. The bind must either precede, or be simultaneous with, contact with any other part of the body of the player joining the ruck.
Sanction: Penalty kick
10.4 DANGEROUS PLAY AND MISCONDUCT
(g) Dangerous charging. A player must not charge or knock down an opponent carrying the ball without trying to grasp that player.
Sanction: Penalty kick
(h) A player must not charge into a ruck or maul. Charging includes any contact made without use of the arms, or without grasping a player.

February, 2011 - Dangerous Tackles (high tackles)

The specific provisions of Law 10.4(e) in relation to High Tackles are as follows:

A player must not tackle (or try to tackle) an opponent above the line of the shoulders even if the tackle starts below the line of the shoulders. A tackle around the opponent’s neck or head is dangerous play.

A stiff-arm tackle is dangerous play. A player makes a stiff-arm tackle when using a stiff-arm to strike an opponent.
At an IRB Medical Conference held in November 2010 at Lensbury the results of studies related to injuries sustained as a result of tackles were outlined. A study in England concluded that “stricter implementation of the Laws of Rugby relating to collisions and tackles above the line of the shoulder may reduce the number of head/neck injuries”. A separate study in New Zealand concluded that “ball carriers were at highest risk from tackles to the head and neck region”.

The participants at the Medical Conference generally recognised that tackles above the line of the shoulders have the potential to cause serious injury and noted that a trend had emerged whereby players responsible for such tackles were not being suitably sanctioned.

The purpose of this Memorandum is to emphasise that as with tip tackles, they must be dealt with severely by Referees and all those involved in the off-field disciplinary process.

It is recognised of course, as with other types of illegal and/or foul play, depending on the circumstances of the high tackle, the range of sanctions extends from a penalty kick to the player receiving a red card. An illegal high tackle involving a stiff arm or swinging arm to the head of the opponent, with no regard to the player’s safety, bears all the hallmarks of an action which should result in a red card or a yellow card being seriously considered.

Referees and Citing Commissioners should not make their decisions based on what they consider was the intention of the offending player. Their decision should be based on an objective assessment (as per Law 10.4(e)) of the overall circumstances of the tackle.

May 15th, 2012 - IRB and Unions Sanction Global Law Trials (from IRB press release)

The International Rugby Board and its Member Unions have sanctioned a global trial of five aspects of Law amendments following an extensive process of consultation and evaluation.
The trial, approved by the IRB Council at its Annual Meeting in Dublin on Tuesday, will commence at the start of the next season in each hemisphere (August 2012 in the north and January 2013 in the south) and will be applicable to both international and domestic competition.

Aspects of Law approved for trial include limiting the time that the ball is available at the back of a ruck and the positioning of taking a quick throw-in. In addition to the suite of five Laws approved for global trial, three additional trials will operate during 2012.

A trial extension of the jurisdiction of the Television Match Official will be introduced later this year, while the number of nominated replacements in Test Rugby will be increased to eight for a trial in the November window.

The global trial has been sanctioned after an unprecedented evaluation process that kicked off with submissions and recommendations for 20 potential amendments from Member Unions and has culminated with recent trials of amendments to seven aspects of Law as a package at dedicated playing environments in Cambridge and Stellenbosch.

This evaluation process is in line with the remit of the Laws Amendment Process approved by the IRB Council in December 2009.

Unlike previous amendment processes, the process of selection, monitoring and evaluation has been steered by an independent Laws Representative Group, comprising technical representatives from each of the 10 Tier 1 Unions covering elite and community Rugby and representatives of the IRB Rugby Committee.

Extensive evaluation of the Cambridge and Stellenbosch University trials undertaken earlier this year determined that each of the seven amendments could have a positive effect on the Game or clarify existing areas of Law and therefore a recommendation was made to the IRB Council via the IRB Rugby Committee to approve a global trial of all seven amendments.

The five Law amendments to be trialled globally are:
1. Law 16.7 (Ruck): The ball has to be used within five seconds of it being made available at the back of a ruck following a warning from the referee to “use it”. Sanction – Scrum.
2. 19.2 (b) (Quick Throw-In) For a quick throw in, the player may be anywhere outside the field of play between the line of touch and the player’s goal line.
3. 19.4 (who throws in) When the ball goes into touch from a knock-on, the non-offending team will be offered the choice of a lineout at the point the ball crossed the touch line; or a scrum at the place of the knock-on. The non-offending team may exercise this option by taking a quick throw-in.
4. 21.4 Penalty and free kick options and requirements: Lineout alternative. A team awarded a penalty or a free kick at a lineout may choose a further lineout, they throw in. This is in addition to the scrum option.
5. A conversion kick must be completed within one minute 30 seconds from the time that a try has been awarded.

In addition to the global trials, the IRB Council approved three specific additional trials:
1. A trial to extend the jurisdiction of the TMO to incidents within the field of play that have led to the scoring of a try and foul play in the field of play to take place at an appropriate elite competition in order that a protocol can be developed for the November 2012 Tests.
2. A trial has been sanctioned for the November 2012 Test window permitting international teams to nominate up to eight replacements in the match day squad for Test matches. In line with current practice at domestic elite Rugby level, the additional player must be a qualified front row player.
3. An amendment to Law 3.4 (Sevens Variation) to enable Sevens teams to nominate up to five replacements/substitutes. Under the revision, which will operate from June 1 2012, a team may substitute or replace up to five players during a match. Approval has been granted on player welfare grounds to recognise the additional demands on players and squads owing to the expansion of the HSBC Sevens World Series where there are three blocks of three events on consecutive weekends.

Council also approved the referral by the Laws Representative Group of one potential Law amendment that was successfully trialled at Cambridge and Stellenbosch for further consideration by the specialist Scrum Steering Group (overseeing scrum force project) to be considered alongside the ongoing review of the scrum.

The amendment that will be considered by the Group relates to the engagement sequence and will see the referee call “crouch” then “touch”. The front rows crouch then touch and using outside arm each prop touches the point of the opposing prop’s outside shoulder. The props then withdraw their arms. The referee will then call “set” when the front rows are ready. The front rows may then set the scrum.

“We have a collective responsibility to ensure that the Game is as enjoyable to play, officiate and watch as possible at every level while player welfare is of paramount importance,” said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.

“Rugby is currently in good health with participation growing around the world, but there is collective responsibility to ensure that a structured process can be implemented to allow for global analysis and to monitor trends relating to the shape and character of the Game as it evolves.”

“The approval of five aspects of Law for global trial is the culmination of the Laws Amendment Process which was agreed by the IRB Council in 2009. The journey to this point has been exhaustive and collaborative and has involved full stakeholder consultation and I would like to thank Member Unions for their buy-in and commitment to the process from the outset.”

“The Laws Representative Group were encouraged by the outcomes of the initial trials in Cambridge and Stellenbosch. The next step is a global trial with full buy-in and which has been approved by Council on the basis that the amendments can have a positive effect on the playing of the Game.”

“The global trials are not fait accompli. It is essential at the end of the global trial process that decisions made are in the best interest of Rugby worldwide,” added Lapasset.

Editors notes:
Laws Representative Group (LRG): David Nucifora (ARU), Rob Andrew (RFU), Franco Ascione (FIR), Joel Dumé (FFR), Owen Doyle (IRFU), Rod Hill (NZRU), Stephen Gemmell (SRU), André Watson (SARU), Francisco Rubio (UAR), Joe Lydon (WRU), Paddy O'Brien and Graham Mourie (IRB Rugby Committee).
IRB Laws Amendment Process (approved December 2009):
Laws Laboratories commenced in early 2012 (Stellenbosch and Cambridge)
LRG considered outcomes – statistical, player/coach feedback and match to criteria
Council reviewed the recommendations and approve global trials if applicable
Global trials – August 2012 NH – January 2013 SH if applicable
LRG review and recommendations to the Rugby Committee
Recommendations to Council Annual Meeting 2014
Implementation immediate if accepted

Definition of Terms

References:

1. The Daily News, Tuesday April 29, 1890.

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