World Rugby have issued a ‘Law application guideline’ around the breakdown, but the focus is on the application of existing Laws.


Although tinkering with the Laws every year is what fans have come to expect from World Rugby, for once the governing body have restrained themselves.

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The move comes following an Executive Committee’s approval of recommendations by the specialist breakdown working group. WR are concerned at the high amount of injuries sustained in this part of the game, but rather unusually, they have resisted a Law change.

A statement reads: “The Law 14 and 15 application guideline will be operational for all competitions commencing after 1 July, 2020 and reinforces the application of current law for what is a complex and dynamic facet of the game.


“With a focus on player welfare and game attractiveness, a specialist breakdown group comprising international coaches, players, medical, laws and research experts, considered current trends and challenges and considered law change before recommending a strict reinforcement of existing law as the most appropriate and successful course of action, specifically:

Tackler (Law 14): 14.5 – must a) Immediately release the ball and the ball-carrier after both players go to ground and b) Immediately move away from the tackled player and from the ball or get up.

Ball Carrier (Law 14): 14.2 – Being brought to ground means that the ball-carrier is lying, sitting or has at least one knee on the ground or on another player who is on the ground.

14.5 – Tacklers must: d) Allow the tackled player to release or play the ball.

First arriving player (Law 15): 15.11 – Once a ruck has formed, no player may handle the ball unless they were able to get their hands on the ball before the ruck formed and stay on their feet.


15.12 – Players must endeavour to remain on their feet throughout the ruck.

Other arriving players (Law 15): 5 – An arriving player must be on their feet and join from behind their offside line. 6 – A player may join alongside but not in front of the hindmost player. 10 – Possession may be won either by rucking or by pushing the opposing team off the ball.

World Rugby has produced a comprehensive visual guide, including video explanations, for the rugby community on its multi-lingual laws website,

World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: “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.

“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 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.

“In particular, there will be focus on the ball carrier playing or placing the ball immediately, the tackler releasing immediately, rewarding the player who wins the race to the contest, penalising side entry and players who dive, not drive, into rucks.”

World Rugby will be rolling-out education to its international referee panel on the change in emphasis and collaborating with international teams and unions to ensure alignment.

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