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The AU stat that convinced World Rugby to globally trial 50:22 kick

By Liam Heagney

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Ex-Ireland coach Joe Schmidt has explained why World Rugby were keen to globally trial the 50:22 kick rule that was trialled in Super Rugby AU after being initially adopted at National Rugby Championship level in Australia. Schmidt these days is now the World Rugby director of rugby and high performance and he has been keeping an eye on the impact of the 50:22 kick in Australia.

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The law states that if the team in possession kicks the ball from inside their own half indirectly into touch inside their opponents’ 22 or from inside their own 22 into their opponents’ half, they get the throw-in to the resulting lineout.

The rationale of this 50:22 kick law is to create space via a tactical choice for players to drop back out of the defensive line in order to prevent their opponents from kicking for touch and Schmidt, having liked what he saw in Super Rugby AU, is satisfied that this is a tactic worthy of getting trialled for the next year on a global basis from August 1 along with four other initiatives.

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Explaining World Rugby’s thought process in widening this particular trial, Schmidt said: “There is a quite fast linespeed, particularly on the edge of the defensive line, and if we can force players to cover the backfield a little bit more it may take a little bit of heat out of the defensive line and therefore reduce the speed of some of those collisions. 

“We see teams using a 14-and-one system where they have just got one player sweeping at the back, but this 50:22 has bean trialled in Super Rugby AU and having two players back and one sweeper, there is now twelve in the front line and hopefully it will create a little more space. 

“If teams take the risk that they see the 50:22, the ball originates inside your own half and you can kick the ball out into the 22 of your opponent on the bounce and then you win the lineout throw, so it is a big advantage. In the nine (50:22 kicks) in Super Rugby AU, three of the lineouts were then scored off. It’s quite an incentive for teams to cover the backfield a little bit more than they are at the moment.”

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The goal-line drop out and three trials focused specifically on reducing injury risk at the breakdown will also be globally trialled from next month. The breakdown laws will limit the number of players in a pre-bound pod, sanction the lower limb clear-out, and tighten the law relating to latching. 

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The AU stat that convinced World Rugby to globally trial 50:22 kick

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