15 Feb

Review of the new law interpretations
by Tracey Nelson
15 Feb 2010

The first round of the 2010 Super 14 saw only one of the home teams win, and already the Bulls and Crusaders are leading the points table. But it wasn’t just the game results that were of interest, but the new law interpretations.


New (and at long last, the correct!) interpretation of Law 15.4 (a-c) the tackler will no longer have unlimited rights to go for the ball. The tackler must release the tackled player completely and get to their feet before they can go for the ball.

The opening game between the Blues and Hurricanes was a whistle-fest, as Australian referee Stu Dickinson struggled to get the players to adhere to this mandate. Of the 26 penalties in the game, 12 of them were at the tackle. Of those 12, 9 were against the tackler for not rolling clear while just three were against the tackled player for holding on to the ball on the ground. While you’d like to think that the majority of those 12 tackle penalties came in the first half, it was a fairly even split with 7 in the first and 6 in the second – which could well lead you to think the players were slow to adapt.

In contrast the game between the Crusaders and Highlanders saw only 7 penalties awarded at the tackle, with the Crusaders conceding 4 and the Highlanders 3 – perhaps a result of watching the previous evening’s encounter in Auckland. Of the other games there were varying numbers of penalties awarded at the tackle but overall the outcome seems to be positive. Attacking ball is clean and quick, there are definitely less players off their feet at the breakdown, and best of all we are seeing counter-rucking making a welcome come back as this is now the only legal means of contesting for possession when the ball is on the ground.


Law 11.4(a) When a team-mate of an offside player has kicked ahead, the off-side player is considered to be taking part in the gae if the player is in front of an imaginary line across the field which is 10m from the opponent waiting to play the ball, or from where the ball alnds or may land. The off-side player must immediately move behind the imaginary 10m line.

Players were supposed to be made to comply with either standing still or retiring in relation to being in front of the kicker. Certainly we saw the standing still when the referees called for them to stop advancing but there are still occasions where players are within the 10m zone and rather than retiring are just staying still and waiting for a team mate advancing from behind the kicker to put them on side. d

This has long been an area where referees should be receiving calls from their assistants on the sideline, and while there is a greater policing of this law it is still not as good as it could be. I can easily think of at least three occasions in the match we called in Christchurch on Saturday night, and there were similar incidents in the other games I viewed. So my call on this is "still a work in progress" and hopefully referees will continue to remain vigilant.


The scrum engagement must follow a true sequence, starting with all props required to touch, on the touch call. Props must also have their head and shoulders above their hips, and then hit straight on engagement. This enhances the chance of the scrum being contestable, and to stay up resulting in less resets.

Yes, this pretty much worked. Although I do have sympathy with the front rowers who in some games were forced to stand in the crouch pose for far too long as the referees slowed down the "crouch-touch-pause-engage" call to almost unbearable levels. But certainly the number of reset scrums was notably down on last year’s average, which can only be a good thing. Penalties were quick to come for those props not hitting straight, or for front rows not taking the hit. A definite pass mark here.


At the time that a maul is formed, players supporting the ball carrier will not be allowed to obstruct the opposition. This is intended to at least make the maul defendable at the set up stage.

There weren’t many maul penalties, and those that were given were normally against the opposition for pulling down the maul rather than obstruction by the team forming the maul. There didn’t seem to be too many issues here, there weren’t many mauls in the NZ games but there were some rolling mauls in the Reds v Waratahs and the South African games, and obstruction by support players wasn’t evident.

We have only seen one round of games, but so far I like what I have seen. Not only is there more continuity and faster ball for the attacking team, but there was notably less kicking in almost all the games – contrasting notably with the France v Ireland 6 Nations test, where almost every second play of the ball was a kick. If this continues, we are set for some scintillating rugby in the 2010 Super 14.

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