Earlier this week, World Rugby released a new ‘Law application guideline’ concerning how breakdowns and rucks should be policed.
At the time, chairman Bill Beaumont made it clear that the laws of the game weren’t changing but it was important to clear up some ambiguity in the laws.
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“The breakdown is the most dynamic facet of the game and it is increasingly difficult to referee, but just as importantly, it is responsible for nine per cent of match injuries,” said Beaumont.
“Therefore it was important that we looked to identify ways to reduce the risk of injury, while promoting a fair contest for the ball.
“The [specialist breakdown] group looked at a range of potential solutions, including potential law trials, but they unanimously agreed that the best practical and evidenced approach is to reinforce existing law, rather than law change.”
Said group was comprised from top members of the rugby community from around the world, including former Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, referees Jaco Peyper and Waynes Barnes, and former All Black Victor Vito.
New All Blacks coach Ian Foster was another high-profile member of the team and broadly backed the new policies.
“We had strong agreement not to add any more layers of law or interpretation, but to really focus on the critical parts of law we all agree make a difference at the breakdown,” Foster told NZ media outlet Stuff.
“The reason the meeting was successful was because we didn’t introduce stuff. We actually had clearer conversations about what’s working. Things like keeping focus on tacklers getting away from the ball, keeping focus on the ball-carrier having the opportunity to place, but not being able to roll around and double move. Also forcing people to show they’re holding their weight rather than going off their feet, then trying to jackal the ball.
“They’re things the game already knows. It may sound boring, but if we keep focusing hard and coach that technical stuff then hopefully we get a better result.
“At the moment we’re still seeing a lot people off their feet at a breakdown. That creates a whole lot of collisions where people are going from high to low. It’s not perfect, it’s just redefining what has worked for us in the past and making sure we keep good at it.”
Foster also alluded to the fact that one of the All Blacks’ star players, lock Brodie Retallick, spent considerable time on the sidelines in 2019 due to a controversial ruck entry from Springbok RG Snyman.
His injury, along with Highlanders captain James Lentjes’ earlier this year, would hopefully never occur under the new interpretations.
“We are all clear that side entry on attack is dangerous because often you’re hitting a person who’s not really prepared for what’s coming and hitting on an angle you’re vulnerable. That’s been a clear focus from the referees and we ticked that box to say ‘well done refs, keep going at it'”, said Foster.
Due to rugby across the world being suspended due to coronavirus, it may be some time before we actually see these new applications and interpretations in practice.
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