Rethinking the game’s penalty rules

Francis Foo Roar Pro

By Francis Foo, Francis Foo is a Roar Pro


92 Have your say

    Be that it may, the All Blacks could have won if the goal kicking had been more accurate by Beauden Barrett.

    But the heart of rugby is all about scoring tries. Winning by penalties outside the 22 line is like winning through the back door.

    If ever union is going to lose favour from rugby fans, it is the spoilage of the game by ridiculous penalty kicks some 50-60 metres away. And that means all you need to win are some chaps with big rugby boots and steroid-filled legs.

    It is about time for the old men in suits managing the code to take another look at how existing rules of allowing penalties to dictate the outcome of the game are actually ruining the code. They are spoiling the fun of supporters wanting to watch teams aiming for touch-downs to win.

    Here are some suggestions to reduce the impact of penalties on the outcome of the game.

    1. Long-arm penalties, only for serious offences, i.e. high tackles and other yellow card offences. They could also be introduced after repeated offsides, repeated scrum spoilage or other scrum offences.

    2. Except for dangerous play, the above breaching of the rules as first time offence in the run of play should only be short-arm penalties and allowed to kick for touch and subsequent throw-in at a line-out – but not allowed a shot at goal.

    3. ALL existing penalty rules as first-time offence in the run of play inside the 22-line will remain.

    4. Existing red and yellow card rules apply.

    5. Of course, teams can drop-kick for goal from anywhere in the park.

    These changes will put emphasis on scoring tries by each side for teams to win.

    However, a stringent application of the exiting penalty rules for first offence should be applied with play inside the 22-line of the goal. First offence inside the 22 line will incur long-arm penalty and/or penalty try as currently applied.

    Right now, teams try to master the dark art of creating penalties and getting rewarded to get a shot at goal from all over the park.

    As a close body contact sport, we can expect unanticipated infringement of the rules by players for instance offsides in defending their line or in the rush to attack the opponent’s defence. This should not be allowed to be exploited to win games.

    Spectators want to see more tactical play by teams to go for tries than teams exploiting penalty rules outside the 22 to win the game.

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    The Crowd Says (92)

    • July 10th 2017 @ 1:45am
      FunBus said | July 10th 2017 @ 1:45am | ! Report

      It’s amazing. An AB gets sent off for the first time EVER in NZ (remarkable given NZ’s decades long reputation for, erm, err, ‘robust’ play), and the first time anywhere in 50 years; they draw a game having scored 2 tries to nil with the opposition landing a 53m penalty; and the laws of the game have to be ripped up and/or revised.

      A less charitable person than me would suggest it’s a mind-boggling sense of entitlement.

      • Roar Pro

        July 10th 2017 @ 2:39am
        Francis Foo said | July 10th 2017 @ 2:39am | ! Report

        Not to give away a very spirited display of rugby by the Lions and as some say, it could have gone either way. But the fact remains if the French referee had stuck to his original decision, that it was indeed an off side penalty, whether accidental or not, it is a penalty shot at goal for the AB, rather than a scrum, then the outcome may not be a draw. Under the suggested revision, there won’t be any controversy if the infringement is outside the 22 metre line since it is a first time offence and a shot-arm penalty rule applies with a kick to touch and a throw-in for AB to take another shot to break the tie.

      • July 10th 2017 @ 7:13am
        aussikiwi said | July 10th 2017 @ 7:13am | ! Report

        Little tip on improving your social skills FB. Suggesting something in a passive aggressive way rather than directly does not make you charitable.

        • July 10th 2017 @ 11:04am
          ClarkeG said | July 10th 2017 @ 11:04am | ! Report

          did he just call himself a charitable person?

        • July 11th 2017 @ 3:55am
          FunBus said | July 11th 2017 @ 3:55am | ! Report

          My apologies aussiekiwi, I wasn’t aware I was being passive in my aggression to how Kiwis go about their rugby business. I promise to dial back on the passivity in future.

      • Roar Guru

        July 10th 2017 @ 5:50pm
        Timbo (L) said | July 10th 2017 @ 5:50pm | ! Report

        This problem is not new, this is just another trigger for an ongoing conversation.

        The result has and always will be the total number of the points at the end of the game. There is no qualification on how they were scored.

        A dirty team may score 2 tries but if the clean team pots every opportunity from discipline problems, you could claim a justified win.
        (I am not saying this is Kiwi-Lions, it is just a thought experiment)

        I am on Francis’ line of thinking but it is a complex problem requiring a clever solution.

        I don’t like seeing penalties for handling errors, scrum coin flips, accidental off sides and the like.

    • July 10th 2017 @ 2:12am
      MH01 said | July 10th 2017 @ 2:12am | ! Report

      Like the ball in hand, wallabies running rugby style ? That’s actually loosing fans at the fastest rate. The last two games of the lions tour were some of best rugby in recent years.

      RC has become so boring in recent years, it’s boring to watch the all blacks win by 20+ points. I much prefer 6N these days. Rugby is doing great, you just can’t expect every game to be a blow out……all blacks were tested and ran out of ideas , who ….cause they are seldom in such a situation .

      From my perspective I really enjoyed watching my Brumbies under Jake white, we were winning and playing intelligent rugby. Under larkham and cheika’s ball in hand crap, rugby has never been more boring. For the first time I did it watch any oz SR games this weekend and just watch the 3rd test . And what an awesome game!

      The game and rules are not broken, the ABs just did not win, some really are struggling with this….

      Frankly karma to Gatland, well done mate. NZ media can just whinge about a ref call and ignore the obvious where were the rugby smarts right at the end when NZ were in a perfect position for a field goal and instead tried to run At a defence that was excellent all night……Not smart ! NZ still needs a plan In these situations and not rule changes.

    • July 10th 2017 @ 2:23am
      riddler said | July 10th 2017 @ 2:23am | ! Report

      i am okay with the rules..

      when it went from 4 to 5 points for a try i thought that was a great call..

      reducing the value of a penalty will have a detrimental effect to the game as more teams/players/coaches will be happy to give away a penalty..

      i think everyone intentions are score tries.. if the opposition stop by that doing some against the rules then they should pay for it..

      if you want to play with the rules.. fix the scrums and the put in..

      so many minutes wasted on resets.. especially tactically towards the end of the game..
      p.s the kiwis i know and that i have spoken with are not whinging nor complaining.. they love rugby, just as much if not more so than they love the all blacks, and appreciate the quality of a gripping game..

    • Roar Guru

      July 10th 2017 @ 2:46am
      biltongbek said | July 10th 2017 @ 2:46am | ! Report

      Disagree, penalties is part and parcel of how teams get penalised if they continue to infringe, if you take the points away teams will just keep infringing which will totally ruin the game.

      Besides whilst tries are extremely entertaining, it is merely a result of the play preceding the score.

      Do fans only focus on the game for the moment when someone crosses the whitewash?

      Or is it the intensity of collisions, space being exploited, defenders being beaten etc that excites us?

      The mere fact that you can see 20-30 offloads in a match but only 2 tries does not diminish the entertainment value.

      Start enjoying the journey mate, the result will follow

      • July 10th 2017 @ 3:14am
        FunBus said | July 10th 2017 @ 3:14am | ! Report

        Spot on BB.

      • Roar Pro

        July 10th 2017 @ 3:50am
        Francis Foo said | July 10th 2017 @ 3:50am | ! Report

        Existing rules of penalty still in play within the 22 meter line.

        The suggestion is with regard to the nature of reward of first time penalty offence OUTSIDE the 22 line. Where dangerous play is incurred, existing penalty rules apply.

        What is suggested, excluding dangerous play, is that if the same offence is committed the secnd time around in the run of play, that will incur the long arm penalty.

        I also believe, this will also give a faster flow of play outside the 22 line and less of frequent long stoppage of play waiting for kickers line up to shoot at goals for every first time offence ( other than dangerous play ) in a run of play outside the 22 line.

        Much of the rules of rugby, including penalty rules, have change since the days I played competitve rugby when it was only an amateur sport in the mid 60s to late 70s back in my younger days,.. the changes had made the game so much safer, faster, and more entertaining. Some rules I was surprised were changed… but then I was told they were made partly because the game had moved from an amateur sports to being a professional sport… and onevof them, the use of TMO is an interesting one , and the code guardians interest on TV viewership and gate attendance.

        These suggestions are to take the code further forward another step.

        • July 10th 2017 @ 2:45pm
          Ruckin' Oaf said | July 10th 2017 @ 2:45pm | ! Report

          So kill the ball at the ruck outside your 22 and there’s no penalty – tackler not releasing the tackled player. . Scrum with the attacking team to get the ball – from the scrum the ball gets killed in the next ruck, player not rolling away.

          1. It’s not within the run of play as play has been re-set by the scrum
          2. It’s not the same offence.

          So you will be encouraging professional fouls. Just creatively and and outside the 22.

          If you really want to stop infringements make penalties 10 points.

    • July 10th 2017 @ 4:21am
      maxxlord said | July 10th 2017 @ 4:21am | ! Report

      All Blacks were not good enough to win. If they were, they would have. Suck it up.

      • July 10th 2017 @ 6:19am
        P2R2 said | July 10th 2017 @ 6:19am | ! Report

        suck it up…?? is that all you can say and I do agree with you – the ABs were not on their best…in 2nd and 3rd test, but could have/would have won it ….anyway as Hansen says – let’s all move on….

    • July 10th 2017 @ 4:44am
      Hong Kong Gardens said | July 10th 2017 @ 4:44am | ! Report

      Good post, Francis. But trying to get the laws of rugby amended is like trying to get blood from a turnip. I think it’s ridiculous that a penalty is worth 60% of a try. The NFL studied their game for years before arriving at a sensible solution – territorial penalties for infringements. If such a law was adopted it would make for what the fans, and the players, want – running rugby. Leave the kicking to Rules.

      • July 10th 2017 @ 6:01am
        Londoner said | July 10th 2017 @ 6:01am | ! Report

        Agreed. Territorial penalties make a lot of sense…..If for example a penalty, gives 20-40m given the severity of it.
        This would allow the re start of play to set up for a drop kick if they wish, hence keeping the kicking element of rugby union. Of course if near the try line penalty starts 5m out…….I would like to see all goal kicks being drop goals with a shot clock. The whole stopping the game for a long time for a kick is a waste of time.

        I would also make a try 6 points. This would have the effect of rewarding the try scorers over the penalty seekers.
        For example right now, 6 pens is 18 pts. So is 2 tries, 1 conversion and 2 pens.
        Under 6 points for a try, that would be 18-20, which is a small change but enough to make the game better.

      • Roar Pro

        July 10th 2017 @ 12:05pm
        Francis Foo said | July 10th 2017 @ 12:05pm | ! Report

        Yes, I like the idea of loss of territory for infringements. Itt is a good option in the mix of rewards to the opposing team for infringements, as it was introduced in Americsn football.

        Nonetheless, our union code has already adopted the loss of 10 meters of territory for unnecessary talkback at the referee and for being too close to a penalty kick.

        Loss of territory could be considered as a worthwhile option as gaining terroritory is one of the hardest part of the code without kicking the ball forward. If the guardians of the code are very concerned about player safety, perhaps for dangerous play, 20 m loss of terrority plus a shot at goal. Dangerous play inside 22 line, automatic yellow card and shot at goal.

        For first time offence in the run of play outside 22 line, perhaps instiutute loss of territory with a scrum down OR loss of territory with the option of kick to touch and a throw-in.

        Existing long arm penalty rules with a shotbat goal should apply WITHIN the 22 line to ensure both teams put serious attention to infringements, especially the tendency of both attacking and defending teams to engage in cynical infringements.

        Nowadays a set scrummage which assumes equal opportunity for both sides to fight for the ball is a joke as we see half backs literally putting the ball behind their front row players and referees tend to put a blind eye to it. Might as well give the ball to the team as a short arm penalty with an option to kick to touch and a throw in, but not allowing a shot at goal.

        Fair enough, set scrums are useful to allow teams to reboot tactical set play. They are part and parcel of the code.

        • July 12th 2017 @ 12:07am
          Londoner said | July 12th 2017 @ 12:07am | ! Report

          All good ideas, would be great to see these ideas trialled in a reasonably high level completion, i.e. Welsh national league 2, or Shute Shield.

      • Roar Rookie

        July 10th 2017 @ 12:11pm
        piru said | July 10th 2017 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

        As someone who’s been on the receiving end of many territorial style penalties – I concur.