The rules and regulations of a sport are frequently looked at by governing bodies and new articles are written into place. For the start of the 2020/21 Premiership Rugby season, some significant changes to the game were made.
With the next Rugby World Cup on the 2023 calendar, the introduction of new rule changes gives the global game a good couple of years to implement them and to see if the changes will need to be tweaked along the way.
Who governs rugby rule changes?
The changes to the Premiership Rugby 2021 season are in place thanks to the World Rugby governing body. World Rugby, which consists of more than 100 union members and is chaired by former England player Bill Beaumont, are trialling the laws before any are fully introduced in 2022. If these trials are successful, they have to be fully written into the rules of the sport to become official, which would happen after the 2021/22 Premiership season.
How many changes have been made?
There are five new rule changes that World Rugby has applied to the game, which for the Premiership, means that they are active from the start of the 2021/22 season. Player welfare is at the heart of some of the new rules, while other rules attempt to provide more balance to the game.
The new rules were put into effect on 1st August 2021. Some of the earliest tournaments to have trialled the new rugby laws were the Rainbow Cup and the 2021 Rugby Championship.
Premiership Rugby 2021 rule changes
What differences can fans expect to see during the Premiership Rugby 2021/22 season? Here are the key changes that are being trialled:
This rule has already been trialled, notably during the 2021 Rainbow Cup. If a team kicks the ball into touch indirectly from their own half, they will retain possession of the ball via an attacking line out.
The intention of the 50:22 is not to necessarily promote a kicking game, but to create attack space for runners by having defensive players drop deeper to defend.
Goal-line drop out
This is another rule which was trialled at the Rainbow Cup prior to the start of the Premiership season. A defending team will be awarded a goal-line drop out if an attacking player is held up in the in-goal area, or if the attacking team either knocks-on or the defending team grounds the ball in the in-goal area.
One primary focus of the rule change is to reward a team for good defence instead of just handing the ball back to the attacking team. The goal-line drop out rule is designed to cut down on the potential number of scrums within a match as well.
Pre-bound pods of players
For the 2021 Premiership Rugby season, players can no longer cluster together before receiving the ball. A penalty kick will be awarded for three or more players bound together before receiving.
Lower limb clear out
A penalty kick is now served as a sanction for any player who targets, or drops their weight, onto a “jackler”. A jackler refers to a player who comes in after a ball carrier has been tackled and tries to secure the ball.
Tightening law relating to latching
A one-player latch is still permitted, but latching players bear the same responsibility as the first arriving player, such as staying on their feet and coming from their own side. A penalty kick is issued for an infringement.
What didn’t make the list?
Notably, World Rugby did not push forward from a trial in Super Rugby trans-Tasman, where a red-carded player could be replaced after 20 minutes. Big opponents of the rule were Ian Foster and Dave Rennie, the head coaches of New Zealand and Australia respectively. They both sit on the law committee.
Concussion in World Rugby
There have been extensive discussions about concussions within the sport and World Rugby has worked with the University of Otago to examine the issue. As a result, the largest study regarding head impacts in the sport is currently being conducted through the 2021/22 Premier Rugby season.
It’s being done through the use of special mouthguards which can measure data. Both the men’s and women’s games are under study, as well as some age-grade levels. The study looks at head impacts both in training and in matches, including the Premiership.