New rugby laws aimed at making the game safer, simpler and more fun to watch, will be trialled in two of New Zealand's national competitions – the Mitre 10 Cup and Mitre 10 Heartland Championship this year.
New Zealand Rugby, working with World Rugby, is set to roll out law trials that introduce:
• Amendments to laws 15 (tackle) and 16 (breakdown)
• A new points system
NZR GM Rugby Neil Sorensen said the chance to test new laws represented a unique opportunity for New Zealand to influence the global game.
"I think it’s always exciting to be part of a process that looks to keep the game fresh and relevant," he told allblacks.com
"We are particularly keen to trial these laws as we believe they will help make the game safer to play, will be easier to understand, and as a result more entertaining to watch."
The trials are part of a cyclical law review undertaken by World Rugby every four years, and most recently has involved input from All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen and Chiefs Head Coach Dave Rennie.
New Zealand coaches and referees have already begun preparing for the implementation of laws proposed for the 2016 Mitre 10 Cup and Mitre 10 Heartland Championship this August.
The law trials seek to have tighter and safer controls around the tackle and breakdown, and introduce a new points system.
Following a robust review by World Rugby’s Laws Representative Group, the law trials may be considered for a global trial in 2017 and possible adoption in 2018.
Sorensen said the trials would not be applied to all competitions, but would be managed to provide a clear picture of the impact of the law trials on the game.
He said New Zealand Rugby had a strong desire to revise the laws around the breakdown to improve safety, and was leading the process, with significant changes to laws 15 and 16.
These laws cover the tackle and ruck respectively and see the ruck renamed the ‘breakdown’. These amendments will apply to the Mitre 10 Cup which starts on 18 August and are already being trialled in some premier club games.
Eight provincial unions – Bay of Plenty, North Harbour, Northland, Otago, Southland, Taranaki, Tasman and Waikato – have already elected to implement the law trials during their current premier club rugby season.
The law trials will be in place for the pre-season Ranfurly Shield challenges from Thames Valley (6 June), King Country (30 July) and Wanganui (6 August), but these unions have not chosen to include them in their premier games.
Another law trial will introduce a different scoring system which will be trialled in the Mitre 10 Heartland Championship. The new points system will implement the following:
• 8 pts (penalty try – no conversion kick required)
• 6 pts (try)
• 2 pts (penalty, conversion and drop goal)
Sorensen said that New Zealand Rugby would continue to watch the laws being trialled by provincial unions to assess the impacts.
"These particular trials may not be the answer, but it is important we look at new ways of improving the game, especially around ensuring the safety of our players on the field,” he added.
“These trials will help us to discover how much these law adjustments change the mechanics of how we play the game. We will examine the match data and see if they have had the desired effect of creating a safer and more entertaining game of rugby.
"We will then make our recommendations to World Rugby."
Super Rugby is already trialling one other law trial, which allows a team to kick for and take a lineout if they are awarded a penalty after time is expired.
The Mitre 10 Cup starts on 18 August and the Mitre 10 Heartland Championship kicks off on 27 August, with both Finals scheduled for 29 October.
There was an earlier proposal to consider the use of two referees in games, however, after conversations with World Rugby it will not proceed in this round of law trials.