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New laws set for first international trial in Bledisloe Cup clash

By Tom Raine
All Blacks coach Ian Foster during the Bledisloe Cup rugby union test match between the New Zealand All Blacks and Australia Wallabies. Sky Stadium, Wellington, Sunday 11 October 2020. © image by Andrew Cornaga / www.photosport.co.nz

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All Blacks head coach Ian Foster is not anticipating too many unexpected surprises when his team faces the Wallabies in the first Bledisloe Cup test of 2021, despite several of World Rugby’s recent law changes set to be applied in the match.

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The five new laws will be trialled by World Rugby from the start of this month, with the potential for all of them to be permanently added to the laws of the game a year out from the World Cup in 2023.

Happily for Foster, not all of the new introductions will be completely alien to his side when they take to the field on Saturday evening.

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Brodie Retallick identifies where the Wallabies will attack the All Blacks.

“The goal line dropout, the guys are all over,” said Foster, speaking at a press conference on Thursday. “I don’t think it will take a while [to adapt to it because] it’s [already] been in existence.”

Introduced to reduce the number of scrums in a game, reward good defence, encourage counter-attacking and increase the rate of ball-in-play, the goal line dropout has indeed already featured in this season’s Super Rugby Aotearoa, with franchise’s deploying different attacking shapes upon its encounter.

The other law trials set to appear on Saturday however, will not be as familiar to players in a black jersey – with the Wallabies perhaps having a slight advantage given the exposure they have had to one of the trialled laws already – namely, the 50-22.

Similar to the 40-20 rule employed in rugby league, the 50-22 this year featured in Super Rugby AU – its aim to create spaces for attackers to exploit and reduce the impact of defensive line speed.

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Foster was cognizant of the fact that the change was potentially more familiar to the All Blacks’ opponents, but was certain that through application it wouldn’t become an area of weakness for his side.

“I know the Aussies have been playing under those rules in Super Rugby AU so it’s not new to them,” said Foster. “[It’s] new to us, but we’ve had some discussions about it and I don’t think there’s going to be a change to our game because of it, but it’s certainly something that we’re going to have to grow awareness of.”

The trialled laws that Foster expressed the most need for adaptation around however were the proposed changes to binding and latching. The former law outlawing the practice of pods of three or more players being pre-bound prior to receiving the ball and the latter placing the same responsibilities on a latching player as the first arriving player (i.e. staying on their feet, entering through gate and not falling to ground).

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“[They’re] probably the most influential ones to be honest,” commented Foster. “The latching and being off your feet really is just a simple application of current law anyway … Whilst it’s ‘new’, it’s actually not new in law. I know that the referee has spoken to both us and the Wallabies about that, and we’re really aligned with their view on it.”

Foster will certainly be hoping that his team can move past any early teething issues with the new trialled laws as they prepare to mount this year’s Bledisloe Cup defence.

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New laws set for first international trial in Bledisloe Cup clash

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