World Rugby has confirmed five law trials that will start globally in all competitions, including the opening Bledisloe Cup test, from August 7 as part of what is dubbed a progressive player welfare strategy.
Alongside the law trials a panel of independent concussion consultants - not affiliated with either of the two teams playing - has been announced to provide expert opinion on whether a player should return to play.
Teams will require mandatory review from the independent concussion consultants if a player has a confirmed concussion and seeks to return to play within or on the 10th day since suffering the blow.
Mandatory review will also be required with players concussed within the last three months; players with two or more concussions in the last 12 months or a player who has had five or more concussions since starting to play rugby.
In a statement issued today World Rugby say four of the five law trials that will be implemented have an underlying focus on potential welfare advancements.
The trials follow consultation with players, coaches and competitions. The five new laws will be used in the first Bledisloe Cup test between the All Blacks and Wallabies at Eden Park on August 7.
The trials include two that have been used in the Southern Hemisphere – the goal-line drop out instead of a five-metre scrum when the ball carrier is held up over the line, which was adopted in Super Rugby transtasman and the Rainbow Cup – and the 50:22 kick, most recently used in Super Rugby AU.
Both rules are said to have the potential to increase space and decrease defensive line speed, which could have welfare benefits.
World Rugby did not, however, choose to adopt the ability to replace a red carded player after 20 minutes – a trial used successfully during Super Rugby transtasman. This decision sparked strong criticism from All Blacks and Wallabies coaches Ian Foster and Dave Rennie, both of whom were part of the law review committee.
The other three trials focus specifically on reducing injury risk at the breakdown.
The first involves the introduction of sanctioning of cleanouts which target the lower limbs.
The second will outlaw the practice of multi-player (three or more) pre-bound pods.
The third area will tighten the definition of what is permissible in the practice of one-player latching.
After a global one-year trial period, laws that are deemed successful in meeting the objective of increasing safety while enhancing the spectacle will be tabled to determine whether they are adopted into law at World Rugby's May 2022 meeting, one year before the 2023 World Cup in France.
In addition, World Rugby endorsed a package of community law variations that aim to benefit welfare and accessibility. Recommended to council for consideration in November, they aim to provide unions with law flexibility at a community level, including weight-banded matches, reduced tackle height and limitations to scrum and lineouts.
Reflecting a similar commitment in France, England's RFU at the community level will be implementing and evaluating a waist height tackle law variation, restricting late dipping/leading into contact with the head by the ball carrier in approximately 1200 matches at the under-16 to under-18 age grades during 2021-22.
After World Rugby's work with the University of Otago into the largest-ever study of head impacts in men's, women's and age-grade community level rugby, the RFU will be utilising instrumented mouthguards to measure training and playing head contact in the Premiership from next season.
World Rugby Chairman Sir Bill Beaumont said: "Rugby's laws are fundamental to its accessibility, appeal and safety. It is our mission to ensure that the laws are the best that they can be for everyone playing the game and this law review process has players and player welfare at heart as the approvals show."
World Rugby chief executive Alan Gilpin said: "Our mission is to be the most progressive, open and collaborative sport when it comes to the welfare of our players at all levels. This is very much embedded in the strategic plan we launched earlier this year and it is at the heart of the plan we are launching today. To put it simply, we want rugby to be all it can be for all players at all levels."
Law trials from August 1:
- 50:22: This law trial is intended to create space via a tactical choice for players to drop out of the defensive line in order to prevent their opponents from kicking for touch, reducing impact of defensive line speed – operational in Super Rugby AU
- Goal-line drop out: This law trial is intended to reduce the number of scrums, reward good defence, encourage counter-attacking and increase the rate of ball in play – operational in Super Rugby AU, Super Rugby Aotearoa, Super Rugby transtasman and the Rainbow Cup Welfare-focused breakdown law amendments approved for global trial
- Pre-bound pods of players: Outlawing the practice of pods of three or more players being pre-bound prior to receiving the ball – the sanction will be a penalty kick
- Sanctioning the lower limb clear-out: Penalising players who target/drop their weight onto the lower limbs of a jackler – the sanction will be a penalty kick
- Tightening law relating to latching: One-player latch to be permitted, but this player has the same responsibilities as a first arriving player (i.e. must stay on feet, enter through gate and not fall to floor) – the sanction will be a penalty kick
Sevens law trials:
- A two-year extension of the trial whereby a team may nominate and use up to five replacements (this is in addition to substitutions to cover HIA, blood, injury or foul play incidents).
The substitutions can be made on a rolling basis. In the event of extra-time, a sixth replacement can also be utilised · The Group recommended to Council that in-goal assistant referees will no longer be permitted where there is a TMO present at a competition