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Four examples of the 50:22 in action from the Prem, URC and Top14

By Ian Cameron
There are been a number of 50:22 kicks in the URC, Premiership and the Top 14

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The new 50:22 Law variation which is now on global trial across all of rugby union’s major leagues is starting to be deployed by professional teams.

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Under the 55:22 law, a team will retain the lineout throw if they kick the ball into touch inside the opposition 22m from inside their own half provided that the ball is not kicked directly into touch. The halfway line is deemed to be “inside their own half”. The ball may not be touched by any player.

This 50:22 law trial is intended to create space, encouraging defending players to drop out of the defensive line in order to prevent their opponents from kicking for touch, reducing the impact of defensive line speed.

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Yet while the Law is designed to create more space, until defences adjust, in the short term it could see more lineout maul drives resulting in tries, a scoring mechanism that hardly lends itself to entertaining rugby and which already dominates the game more than most would like. Within the current Law framework, attacking lineouts are incredibly difficult to defend and have become an attacking weapon favoured by the sport’s most successful teams.

To quote retired referee Nigel Owens: “If it works out the way we’re hoping it does, it’s going to benefit the game because you’re going to need another guy back to cover those touchlines in the 22 and that means there’s one less guy in the defence, so hopefully that will open up space for attacking rugby. What you don’t want is that teams will rely on just kick and kick and kick to get that possession in the 22. It’s going to be very interesting to see how that pans out in the nitty-gritty of tournaments and must-win games.”

In the last few weeks, there have a number of great examples of teams’ using the law to good effect. Worcester Warriors Owen Williams was one of the first in the Premiership to bag one, with this effort against London Irish.

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In the URC, Cardiff scored off a brilliant 50:22 kick from Hallam Amos, but again the try for Liam Belcher was as a result of a lineout maul drive.

Back in the Gallagher Premiership, Harlequins star Louis Lyanagh perfectly executed a 50:22 against Exeter Chiefs in Sandy Park, turning a defending set inside his own half into an attacking one moments later.

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Biarritz’s Brett Herron also landed this beach against Racing in the Top 14.

Though it was relatively successfully used in Super Rugby at the start of the year, it will be fascinating to see how the Law pans out in the northern hemisphere, where sides more heavily rely on tactical kicking. Former Leinster fullback Rob Kearney kicked a beaut against the Rebels for the Western Force way back in March.

As ever, it may be a case of the law of unintended consequences. While the law is designed to free up space for attacking players, it clearly rewards kicking inside one’s own half. As ever, the proof of the pudding will be in the eating.

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Four examples of the 50:22 in action from the Prem, URC and Top14

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