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Offside rule tweak to end ‘kick tennis’ and ‘open up’ Super Rugby Pacific

Carter Gordon of the Rebels kicks the ball during the Super Rugby Pacific Trial Match between Melbourne Rebels and NSW Waratahs at Harold Caterson Reserve on February 03, 2024 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Morgan Hancock/Getty Images)

An overhaul of the Super Rugby Pacific offside rule has been approved to encourage teams to run the ball instead of engaging in a tedious game of “kick tennis”.


Officials on Tuesday revealed a law variation that they think will close a “loophole” and encourage counterattacking rugby when the competition begins next Friday.

Traditionally, defenders in front of the kicker are put onside when a kick receiver either passes the ball or runs five metres with the ball.

But Super Rugby Pacific’s innovation will throw out those two clauses.


Instead, defenders will remain offside until they have been put onside by a teammate who has come from behind the kicker, or the kicker themself.

Under the new rules, a long kick will be tougher to defend, with a fullback or winger able to glide past any would-be tacklers isolated in front of the kicker and chasers.

The law has been sanctioned by World Rugby as a trial and follows various tweaks in recent seasons designed to increase ball-in-play time.


“Fans have been vocal in recent times about teams exploiting a loophole that’s seen a large number of players standing still while kicks go over their heads in what some people have called ‘kick tennis’,” Super Rugby Pacific Chair Kevin Malloy said.

“We don’t believe that’s the spectacle our fans want to see in Super Rugby Pacific.

‘”We want to open up the opportunity for teams to counterattack with the ball in hand, and we’re confident this tweak to the law will encourage that trend and encourage exciting, attacking rugby.

“With the full support of New Zealand Rugby, Rugby Australia and our coaches we’ve responded with a small change we think could make a big difference.”


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Pete 159 days ago

The Southern Hemisphere comes to the rescue again! God forbid we have to watch what the Home Unions dish up as ‘rugby’. It was exactly the same from England in the last World Cup…..b o r i n g.
Just the TMO’s to get rid of now, and the game will return to it’s past glories.

Baptiste 160 days ago

Great news. Let the artists play total rugby. Not even sure this will increase the number of tries because the players will be more tired and then will make more mistakes. That’s what rugby is about.

chrash 161 days ago

It could also have the knock-on effect of increasing fatigue and opening up more space (similar theory to higher ball-in-play time). Appreciate this may be more of an issue in NH rugby but good to see it being trialled and hopefully will be rolled out if a benefit to the game as whole.

Pecos 161 days ago

Typical Northern teams, looking for ways to slow the game down. There was already zero kick tennis in SRP anyway. This law just affirms what we already do. Play positive rugby.

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