World Rugby has moved to clarify certain aspects of law and reinforced consistency of application among match officials.
At a meeting in April, the World Rugby Laws Representation Group (LRG) considered a number of areas of the game where it had been agreed that law amendments were not required but that current law was to be enforced more stringently by referees, assistant referees and television match officials.
The areas identified for specific mention were with the laws dealing with foul play (Law 10), the scrum (Law 20) and the maul (Law 17).
To assist with the explanation of exactly what the LRG has recommended a number of video clips have been compiled here and the RWC 2015 match officials have discussed at length the issues raised by those incidents while agreeing a consistent and accountable course of action.
Chairman of the LRG John Jeffrey said: “The eyes of the rugby-loving world will be on the Rugby World Cup later this year and, as always, there will be plenty of attention paid to the decisions of the match officials. The LRG has sought to clarify to players, coaches, media and spectators exactly what they can expect from referees in these key areas during the tournament.
“It was felt that law changes were not necessary in these areas but that referees needed to apply the current law more effectively in some cases.”
The stricter application of the laws will apply to;
Straight feed into the scrum
Those supporters, coaches and players tired of watching crooked feeds into the scrum by scrum-halves will be pleased to see World Rugby underline the need for a straight feed, as per Law 20.6 (d).
Referees and assistant referees have been instructed to ensure that all feeds to the scrum are “credible,” and to award a free-kick to the opposition team if that is not the case.
Challenging for the high ball
This has been a highly contentious issue in the game over the last two seasons, with an increasing number of yellow cards and even red cards for mis-timed challenges in the air. With that in mind, World Rugby has again moved to clarify the laws.
Referees have been instructed to play on if there is a “fair challenge with both players in a realistic position to catch the ball,” regardless of whether the players land on the ground dangerously.
World Rugby says a penalty should be awarded if there is a fair challenge with poor timing, while a yellow card is to be issued when there is “not a fair challenge, there is no contest and the player is pulled down landing on his back or side”.
World Rugby has underlined the need for the ‘ripper’ to be bound to the maul if accidental offside is to be avoided.
The ‘ripper’ is the player who accepts the ball from the lineout catcher as an attacking team sets up their maul, but Ireland and many other sides have not bound onto the maul in those instances recently.
Instead, the ripper has accepted the transfer of the ball from the catcher and immediately set about ‘swimming’ to the back of the maul formation. Ireland and others will need to have their timing and binding close to perfection at the World Cup.
High tackles and the neck
Finally, World Rugby has stressed the need for match officials to ensure that foul play involving high tackles and neck contact is strictly penalised.