6 proposed new rugby laws


We have come up with a list of some sensible and some fairly outlandish law changes that would change rugby for the better. We will let you decide which we think are the crazy ones.

If you have any great suggestions send them in and we will add them to the article.


(1) The referee puts the ball in at the scrum

If there is one thing on the rugby pitch guaranteed to drive the supporter wild it’s the opposition scrum half feeding the ball in to his second row’s feet at the scrum. This isn’t rugby league so it should be penalised, but we all know that other than the obligatory focus on it at the start of the season most referees allow it to happen.

The new law would mean that the referee feeds the ball in at the scrum for both sides. This has the benefit of getting rid of the crooked feed (you’d hope) and also removes the embarrassing act of the referee having to tap the scrum half’s backside or wink at him as a signal to put the ball in.


(2) A player cannot lift an opposition player through the horizontal in the tackle (sanction red card)

This area of the game is a mess. We could quote the current law and directives but the reality is players, supporters and referees alike don’t know what constitutes a dangerous tackle and what the sanctions are.

Does a defender have to take the tackler down safely? What happens if he takes him down safely but he still makes contact with the head or neck? Depending on the day and the referee we will get a variety of outcomes.

To simplify matters players will be banned from lifting defenders through the horizontal. This law wouldn’t apply if it was the attacker’s momentum that takes the player through 90 degrees; it has to be a deliberate lift. There can be little argument if a red card is issued when players clearly know what they can’t do.


(3)  If the ball is kicked over head height the team that kicked the ball (the attacking team) cannot touch the ball until the defending team plays it.

The modern game is littered with the kick in the air and chase. We see it in a defensive position as an exit strategy with the winger chasing and as a common ploy in the middle portion of the pitch with the objective to compete for the ball in the air. It’s usually a low risk, boring tactic.

The other aspect of the common modern use of the kick-and-compete is we are seeing a lot of collisions in the air which are (i) potentially dangerous and (ii) usually lead to multiple TMO replays and ambiguity about the laws and how they should be applied.

As seen in the tackle through the horizontal, players and supporters don’t know what is permitted in terms of competition for the ball in the air and what the resulting sanctions are. World Rugby tried to clarify this previously but it hasn’t helped.

If this new law was applied there would not be any competition for the ball in the air and the defending team will be allowed to safely catch it. Dan Biggar may not support this rule change.


(4) Referees can only ask one question to the TMO when confirming if a try is scored – “Is it a try – yes or no?”

We have written a more detailed article on this topic before but allowing referees to ask “Is there any reason I can’t award the try?” overcomplicates the matter.

If the referee has seen the grounding he gives the try. If he hasn’t seen a legal grounding he asks the TMO to check the grounding and if there are any other offences. It really is that simple.

The current process allows tries to be awarded where neither the referee nor TMO has seen the grounding.


(5) The clock stops when a scrum is awarded and the scrum should be formed immediately

It has become common place for players to take a 45-60 second breather every time the whistle blows for a scrum. To fill the time players pull imaginary mud from their boots, discuss scrum laws with the referee (which don’t change between games so there shouldn’t be a need to ask) and then spend ages binding on each other. It’s dull to watch and slows down the game.

Our new law would mean the match clock is stopped when the whistle is blown and importantly the referee gets the scrum formed within 15 seconds. This law change isn’t going to help some of the larger forwards who base their fitness around having a minute break every 5 minutes (see Top 14 for examples).


(6) Each captain can use a joker to refer an incident to the TMO

More players than ever seem to talk to the referee and try and influence their decisions. In the 2017 6 Nations we have got to the stage where players approach the referee and ask them if they will check with the TMO; sometimes they are successful (Rhys Webb), sometimes they aren’t (Scott Spedding).

Our suggestion is like tennis and cricket, a team gets one joker per game that they can use to force the referee to consult the TMO. If the original decision still stands then the joker is lost, if the decision is overturned then the joker remains and can be played again.


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4 thoughts on “6 proposed new rugby laws

  1. Re point 5 – I’d do the same for the lineout as it’s going the same way as the scrum as an opportunity for players to slow the game down so they can prioritise size over aerobic fitness. Stroll towards the line, conference among the pack, someone wanders over to tell the hooker the call, fanny about with spacing, wee shuffle and dance and then finally the ball is thrown in. Game is slow enough as it is.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I completely understand the logic behind 3 but probably more on grounds of safety than flow. Cutting out the attacking cross kick for a try or a proper challenged up and under is a big shame from the position of variety. And I don’t think it will cut down the aimless defensive kicking you see so much of as they rarely involve challenging for the ball. But it’s so clearly dangerous I don’t think it’s sustainable as it is at the moment. I would however suggest that if it hits grass it’s fair game. You just can’t challenge the defender going for the ball in the air. This will encourage people to aim for grass more as well.

    It’s not original enough to be included in such a list but would be interested in whether you supported going back to none or few tactical substituions. Yes, people would game it all the time but still as a general principle your pack having to expect they’ll be on for 80 minutes would help with the push towards more aerobic physiques we all crave.

    Also, as another time saving measure what do you think about penalties being drop kicks as in sevens. Exceptions for conversions, yellow/red card offences and dangerous play but would speed it up when we’re talking about breakdown and scrum infringements which are majority of penalties. I’ve realised the awarding of a penalty is often a moment I go look at my phone or talk to someone as I know there’s a dead minute. Presumably makes it a little harder too which is no bad thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Nick – some good points there.

    The question of stopping or reducing replacements is a good one which I had a think though. In theory I think it would be a great idea, with replacements only allowed in the event of an injury.

    The problem in the world of professional rugby is we can’t trust teams to only make a change when there is a genuine injury. Coaches will tell play to fake injuries so changes can be made. I can’t see a way around that problem?

    I 100% that we need to make the game more aerobic so having scrums and lineouts formed immediately would help in that regard, as would having the clock stopped when the referee blows his whistle for set pieces.

    Any changes to the laws or the way they are applied which will mean we have a faster, more aerobic game rather must be a good thing.

    On your last point maybe the clock should also be stopped for kicks at the goal. The downside of having the clock stopped is the game may go on for hours!


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