Wellington - Rugby's television referees will be given wider powers under a series of rule changes that will be implemented later this year.
The amendments, which were announced on Tuesday by the
International Rugby Board, will also set a 90-second limit for
conversion attempts and restrict the amount of time the ball can be held
at the back of a ruck.
The IRB says the changes will be implemented on a trial
basis from August in the northern hemisphere and from January in the
southern, applying at domestic and international level.
The most far-reaching of the changes concerns the powers
given to television match officials, who will now be able to rule on
foul play and on incidents which occur inside the field of play in the
lead-up to a try.
Under current rules, TMOs can only rule on events which
occur in-goal and in the act of scoring a try. They will now be able to
advise the referee on incidents which may have occurred in the field of
play in the lead-up to a try being scored.
TMOs will also be able to advise referees on incidents of foul play.
In other changes, conversion kicks will have to be completed within 90 seconds of a try being awarded.
At rucks, the ball will have to be used within five
seconds of becoming available at the back of a ruck after the referee
has instructed a team to "use it."
When the ball goes into touch from a knock-on, the
non-offending team will have the choice of a lineout at the point the
ball crossed the touchline or a scrum where the knock-on occurred.
Quick lineouts will be able to be taken by a player
anywhere outside the field of play between the line of touch and the
players' goal line. When a penalty or free kick is awarded at a lineout,
the non-offending team will have the choice of a further lineout at
which it will have the throw-in.
The TMO changes will be part of three specific additional
tries implemented by the IRB and could be in operation in Test matches
A trial has also been sanctioned for the November Test
window which will allow international teams to nominate eight
replacements in their match-day squad, rather than the current seven.
The eighth player must be a qualified front-rower.
The law changes have come from recommendations of the
IRB's independent Laws Representative Group, which comprises
representatives from each of the 10 tier-one nations and the IRB Rugby
The IRB said extensive evaluation of the amendments had already taken place at Cambridge and Stellenbosch Universities.
"The Laws Representative Group were encouraged by the
outcomes of the initial trials in Cambridge and Stellenbosch," IRB
chairman Bernard Lapasset said. "The next step is a global trial with
full buy-in and which has been approved by council on the basis that the
amendments can have a positive effect on the playing of the game.
"The global trials are not fait accompli. It is essential
at the end of the global trial process that decisions made are in the
best interest of rugby worldwide."The five Law amendments to be trialled globally are:
1. Law 16.7 (Ruck): The ball has to be used within five seconds of it being made available at the back of a ruck following a warning from the referee to “use it”. Sanction – Scrum.
2. 19.2 (b) (Quick Throw-In) For a quick throw in, the player may be anywhere outside the field of play between the line of touch and the player’s goal line.
3. 19.4 (who throws in) When the ball goes into touch from a knock-on, the non-offending team will be offered the choice of a lineout at the point the ball crossed the touch line; or a scrum at the place of the knock-on. The non-offending team may exercise this option by taking a quick throw-in.
4. 21.4 Penalty and free kick options and requirements: Lineout alternative. A team awarded a penalty or a free kick at a lineout may choose a further lineout, they throw in. This is in addition to the scrum option.
5. A conversion kick must be completed within one minute 30 seconds from the time that a try has been awarded.
In addition, the IRB approved three specific additional trials:
1. To extend the jurisdiction of the TMO to incidents within the field of play that have led to the scoring of a try and foul play in the field of play.
2. International teams to nominate up to eight replacements in the match day squad for Test matches, the additional player must be a qualified front row player.
3. Sevens teams to nominate up to five replacements/substitutes.
The IRB also approved further consideration for the ongoing review of the scrum. The amendment relates to the engagement sequence and will see the referee call “crouch” then “touch”. The front rows crouch then touch and using outside arm each prop touches the point of the opposing prop’s outside shoulder. The props then withdraw their arms. The referee will then call “set” when the front rows are ready. The front rows may then set the scrum.