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Idiots Guide to Law Trials 2012

by Emily Ruscoe

9th September 2012

IRB Law Trials 2012SEVERAL of the new laws implemented are fairly simple and need no real explanation; international teams can now nominate 8 substitutions instead of 7, GPS tracking may be worn by players, a stud configuration with one stud at the front is being trialled and conversions must now be kicked within 90 seconds of a try being scored. Easy. However, there are others that have caused a bit of a stir and plenty of confusion so here’s a quick guide to the rest of the new additions.

Law 6: Extension of jurisdiction of the TMO [6.A.6.]

Law 6 TMOThe TMO has become a common feature in televised rugby, often fans have hunched towards a screen willing a slow-motion replay to show a clear try, viewing different angles and awaiting the voice of the appointed official to proclaim his judgement. However, the ability to refer to the TMO has been broadened from simply “try or no try”. The referee can now go upstairs for rulings on foul play or infringements before tries, as well as fouls in general play.

The referee can now call for the TMO to look at any infringement they believe to have taken place between the last break of play and a try. A specific moment will be cited and can included; knock-ons, forward passes, foul play, offsides, players in touch and double movements in scoring. This has caused controversy about interrupting the game for extended periods of time and taking away the authority of the referee. It can also be used to award penalty tries if an infringement is deemed to have stopped a scoring opportunity.

On top of this, the TMO is now allowed to intervene in the open game, calling attention to any serious foul play. They are now able to not only be asked by the referee for a judgment but also attract the attention of the referee and ask for play to be halted while a foul is assessed.

This has been added as part of the IRBs push to increase safety in the game. But many are very dubious about this law, and after its implementation in the first set Aviva Premiership games last weekend, it is easy to see why. The time taken to assess was often too long and just seemed to make the referee have a lack of confidence in his own judgement making. This is just the beginning of its trial though and it is hoped that its implementation will become better as time rolls on.  

Law 12: Quick throw-in after knock-on or throw forward [12.1(e)]

Law 12 Quick throw in


No longer will a knock-on or forward pass into touch result in a simple scrum at the location of the offence, there is now a choice. The non-offending team can now opt to take a quick throw-in from the point where the ball went into touch instead. Pretty simple really; gets rid of more scrums which means less resets and more flowing rugby.


Law 16:Five seconds to play the ball from the back of the ruck [16.7]Law 16 Ruck ball

In an endeavour to quicken play after a ruck this rule has been added. Once a team has clearly won a ruck and the ball presents itself, the referee calls “use it”. This gives the side in possession 5 seconds to get the ball away from the back of the ruck. If the 5 seconds goes past without the ball leaving the ruck then the opposition is awarded a scrum. This should mean the end of those drawn out slow ball moments in a game but could cause controversy if a team does not feel that the ball is suitably available to be played when the call to use it is made. However, generally, this is a law that has been welcomed.

Law 19: Position of thrower at quick throw-in [19.2]

Law 19 Position of throwerThis is a law that, personally, I can see little reason for changing but none-the-less the amendment has been made. From now on, if the ball is kicked straight out and a quick throw-in is chosen, the player throwing in can now kick anywhere from where the ball was kicked to their own goal-line. This is changed from being able to throw only from where the ball went into touch to the goal-line, increasing the distance within which the player can stand.  The wording of this law is particularly bad and so has caused much confusion; the amended form uses the wording “For a quick throw in, the player may be anywhere outside the field of play between the line of touch and the player’s goal line.” The line of touch is the place where the player kicked the ball NOT the point where the ball went into touch, as shown in an illustration on the IRB Laws website. So look out for players running about like headless chickens at a touchline near you!

Law 20:Changed scrum engagement sequence [20.1]

Law 20 Scrum engagementThis is the law that is supposed to make the most difference to the game. After seeing hundreds of resets last season, the IRB have finally changed the scrum engagement call to try and stop the interminable halts to play. The old call, which we have all heard too many times, was “crouch, touch, pause, engage” and caused more problems than any other part of rugby law to referees and players alike.

Firstly, there was the pause. Most believed that saying the word ‘pause’ in an equal timing to the other words in the call was enough of a pause in itself, and often this did not cause a problem. However, there were those who chose to place a pause after saying ‘pause’; this is wherein the problem lay. The added gap was often completely inconsistent, not only between referees but from scrum to scrum, leaving players coming in early or not feeling prepared for the engagement. The pause was initially added to ready the players and improve safety; however, it simply increased the amount of collapsed scrums and left everyone fed up of scrummaging. It will certainly not be missed.

The word ‘engage’ has also been removed in favour for ‘set’. This makes the moment of engagement less hazy due to it being only one syllable instead of two and will hopefully iron out the early engagement argument. So far, however, there has been little improvement seen in terms of resets, which begs the question: is trying to get away with pulling down the scrum now part of the game? If so, it’s time referees got far tougher on the scrum and began using every tool they have to penalise infringers.

Law 21: Penalty and free kick options and requirements - Lineout alternative [21.4]

Law 21 Penalty and free kick options


Any team that is awarded a penalty or free kick at a lineout can now choose to have the lineout reset and for them to throw in. This will certainly be advantageous to many teams who are particularly strong at the set piece, but could led to a situation where, like with scrums, we get bored of watching a lineout performed twice. However, it is likely that this will just be another choice added to the tactical list and will be a useful way for teams to be put on the front-foot if used properly.


Added medical protocol: Concussion assessment

ConcussionA player may now be taken off the field and assessed within 5 minutes by medical staff if they are suspected to be concussed; a procedure now commonly known as ‘going to the concussion bin’. During this time they can be temporarily replaced, like with a blood sub, and may return to the field if they pass the tests. This means better assessment of head injuries, which can only be a good thing, with concussion cases being dealt with quickly and efficiently. This is an addition to the sport that is heartily welcomed by all.