Three new laws will be used across all rugby in New Zealand next season and will apply for club rugby in Counties Manukau in 2023.
The new laws, released by NZR today, are intended to improve player safety and to improve the quality of ball in play.
The change with the biggest impact will see players being forced to make initial contact no higher than the sternum.
“The first tackler’s initial impact must be in the target zone of no higher than the bottom of the sternum thus promoting a lower tackle,” the law now reads.
“The second and subsequent tackler can legally tackle in accordance with current law (below the shoulder).
“The referee decision framework on tackle execution be simplified to concentrate on just two things. The height of the initial contact point on the tackler and subsequently, any contact with the head post contact.
“If there is contact with the head, then the World Rugby Head Contact Protocol would apply.”
NZR said the rationale was based on trial feedback and consultation with players.
“A significant majority of players, coaches and referees saw this law as improving the tackler’s safety (64%) and the safety of the player being tackled (78%),” the release stated.
Other law changes will see halfbacks forced to defend at least 1m behind a defensive scrum and a maximum 1.5m scrum push for all community rugby grades except premier rugby.
Counties Manukau Rugby Referee Education Officer Brandon Roberts welcomed the changes.
“We appreciate the work and effort that NZR and the parties involved are doing to create a safer game for us all,” Roberts said.
“The tackle area and breakdown is the most contentious part of the game to referee. With these guidelines and focus areas, hopefully we will see more consistent and safer outcomes for all.
“The guidelines are clear - first tackle must be below the sternum and any other tacklers after that are below shoulders. I would hope that the coaching strategies would be changing in this space too.
“The 1.5m push at scrum and half back to remain at the tunnel, will speed up the game and encourage the ball in play time to be longer than previous years.
“Our referees, I think, will welcome these changes as there are clear guidelines and parameters around these laws.
“I hope to see and hear better strategies and displays of skills in the games in 2023.”
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