Wallabies face rugby new laws up north

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    The upcoming Bledisloe match, and the end of year Tests will be played under different laws.

    There’s a short video on YouTube from a UK rugby show where Wayne Barnes talks through the changes.

    Northern hemisphere players have been using the new laws already, and it has led to some outcomes which readers of The Roar might find interesting.

    Under the new breakdown law, a tackler can’t get straight to his feet, and play the ball from wherever he happens to be. He has to “go through the gate” first, before he can to attempt to get the ball.

    This tends to mean tacklers release the player very quickly, so they can get back into action. So quickly, in fact, that a tackled player sometimes thinks he is not held, and keeps going forward.

    On occasion, referees haven’t blown up. Even when a player has been tackled, though, the lack of immediate competition for the ball means he can release it, and pick it up to go again.

    The net effect of all this is that teams are reclaiming almost all their own breakdown ball because the defence has less chance to compete for it.

    So far, the main opposition response has been to fan out across the field, rather than commit to the breakdown.

    Some pundits believe this trend is increasing the influence of the scrum half as a playmaker. When the defence gets its spacing wrong, there are more opportunities to break through the middle of a ruck, If the tackled player releases and regathers, it’s often a scrum half nearby in support for an offload.

    If Will Genia stays in good form, then the new laws could make him even more of an asset to the Wallabies, since that would seem to suit his style.

    Another trend getting a lot of attention in the North is what appears to be a larger number of injuries occurring. It’s fair to say there are mixed opinions on this matter.

    Some coaches say the new laws are making the game more attritional, because there are now a larger number of collisions per game. With fewer players committing to the breakdown, attackers are also getting hit by double tackles more frequently.

    On the other hand, it’s still early in the northern season, so we have more anecdotes than data at this stage. Trends are not uniform across the three main European leagues (Pro 14, Top 14 and Premiership).

    However, if the injury rate does show a consistent rise, then national squads with less depth might be under pressure until the matter is addressed.

    I’m not entirely clear when Australia first plays a match under the new laws. The Bledisloe clash will definitely be under the old laws, although the referee is Wayne Barnes, who officiates in the English league using the new laws (he had the same split responsibility when he handled the first Bledisloe match in August).

    World Rugby says “The November 2017 Tests will operate under the full global law trials” which would seem to suggest the Wallabies will first encounter them live, when they take on Japan on the 4th November.

    However, there’s a match on the weekend following the third Bledisloe against The Barbarians. The Baa-baas also have matches in the North, so it might seem like a good opportunity for both sides to get used to the new laws.

    The referee, though is New Zealander Brendon Pickerill, who hasn’t used them yet, and won’t be handling any Tests afterwards. Looks just as likely the old ones will be employed.

    Without a global season, there’s no way around some sides suddenly having to flip from one set of laws to another. The same happens to Northern hemisphere sides when they finish their domestic seasons, and encounter laws on the June tours which have been introduced first in Super Rugby.

    Still, it’s always a challenge for players and officials to switch habits. New Zealanders Glen Jackson and Ben O’Keeffe will handle Australia’s matches against Wales and England, and both will have limited experience with the new laws. The Wallabies match against Scotland sees French referee Pascal Gaüzère with the whistle.

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