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'Captain's challenge' among the latest law innovations adopted by Super Rugby

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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Two exciting new innovations – the goal-line drop-out and captain’s referral – will be introduced for Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa while the golden point law variation introduced last year in Super Rugby AU has been tweaked for the 2021 season. 

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SANZAAR confirmed the addition of new law variations for the tournaments that kick-off in the next few weeks, law variations that are designed to speed up play, increase ball-in-play time and improve the spectacle for the fans.

In New Zealand, Super Rugby Aotearoa will see the introduction of a goal-line drop-out for balls enforced in goal. When an attacking player carrying the ball is held up in the in-goal or knocks the ball on, play restarts with a goal-line drop-out.

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When a kick enters the in-goal area and is forced by the defending team play also restarts with a goal-line drop-out. The tournament will again include extra-time if the scores are level (there were no drawn matches in 2020) – but unlike Australia, if a match is drawn at full-time a single ten-minute period will be played with the first points scored ensuring the win.

The major innovation in Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa is the global debut of a captain’s referral in rugby. This law variant has been introduced in several sports and New Zealand Rugby will trial it in rugby with each team given one referral which can be activated in one of three scenarios: any decision in the last five minutes of the game, an infringement in the build-up to a try or foul play.

Super Rugby AU 2021 will see two further innovative law changes introduced, including the kick-off and restart variations seen in Rugby 7s. For this season, a free kick will be awarded following any infringement off the kick-off and restart.

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This includes an enforced 30-second time limit for restarts to happen following a conversion, penalty or drop goal as well as restarts that are kicked out on the full or if teammates of the kicker are not behind the ball. The team that was set to receive the ball will get a free kick on halfway. This law has been introduced to quicken up general play and reduce unnecessary scrums.

In addition, the golden point law variation introduced last year has been tweaked for season 2021. A drawn match now to be decided by golden try in extra time. The first try scored in the ten-minute extra time (2×5-minute halves) will win the match for that team.

If a penalty or drop goal is successful within this extra time the points count towards the match score, but the game will continue until either a try is scored, or the ten-minute period expires. This update is to encourage attacking play in the extra time period.

SANZAAR CEO Brendan Morris stated, “Super Rugby has always prided itself on being an innovative rugby tournament and this will continue with Super Rugby AU and Super Rugby Aotearoa in 2021. With the aim to improve the game for players and spectators alike we are excited by the introduction of some fresh ideas and the continuation of the law variations that last year proved very popular.”

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“We really want to see match tempo increased, fewer stoppages in play and defences manipulated with more space created for try-scoring opportunities. Particularly interesting is the ‘captain’s referral’ that has been implemented in several sports in recent times including rugby league and cricket. Now it is our chance to assess its suitability and to see if it has a place in our game.”

“We look forward to working with Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby over the coming weeks to roll out and assess all the law variations, as well as receiving feedback from fans which we believe is a critical part of the review process to assess the value of these innovations for permanent inclusion in our tournaments,” added Morris.

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'Captain's challenge' among the latest law innovations adopted by Super Rugby

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