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Nigel Owens calls for law rethink after incident during Italy-Scotland

By Ian Cameron
Referee Nigel Owens gestures to France's prop Jefferson Poirot (R) during the Six Nations international rugby union match between England and France at Twickenham stadium in south-west London on February 10, 2019. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo credit should read ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Revered retired rugby referee Nigel Owens has voiced his concerns over the current rugby law relating to holding a player up over the goal line.

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The incident in question occurred at the Stadio Stadio Olimpico when Scotland’s Duhan van der Merwe lifted and held up Italy’s fullback Ange Capuozzo in Scotland’s dead ball area, winning a goal-line drop-out for Scotland.

According to the Laws of the game “When a player carrying the ball is held up in-goal, so that the player cannot ground the ball or play the ball, the ball is dead. Play restarts with a goal line drop-out or a 5m scrum, depending on how the ball entered.”

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Owens – who retired in 2020 – isn’t a fan of the law.

Owens criticized the goal-line dropout rule for players being held up, arguing that the law favours defensive play over attacking efforts. He stated, “That is why I don’t like the goal line drop out held up law. We should be giving the benefit of the doubt and rewarding the attacking team not the defence. The game is far too much defence-oriented already.”

His comments have ignited a conversation about the balance between attack and defence in rugby on X, with many supporting Owens’ call for a reevaluation of the rules to encourage and reward attacking play when these incidents occur.

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