NZ to trial law changes in domestic competitions

Date published: December 23 2015

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The New Zealand Rugby Union have announced that changes to rugby laws will be trialled across New Zealand’s national provincial competitions in 2016.

New Zealand Rugby is currently planning to trial changes that will apply to some of the domestic competitions including a new points scoring system, policing of the breakdown and the use of two referees.

There will also be a change in sponsorship with New Zealand-owned home improvement and garden retailer, Mitre 10 sponsoring men’s and women’s national provincial rugby competitions from 2016 through to 2020.

• Teams to compete in Mitre 10 Cup, Mitre 10 Heartland Championship and Mitre 10 Women’s Provincial Championship from 2016
• Five year partnership through to 2020
• 81 stores and 5,000 employees to get behind competitions

Mitre 10 will be the new title sponsor for the national domestic championship, formerly known as the ITM Cup and the Heartland Championship which was previously supported by Pink Batts.

New Zealand Rugby General Manager, Neil Sorensen, said that while much of the detail on how the laws will be implemented is still to be worked through, the trials were part and parcel of World Rugby’s cyclical review of laws.

“World Rugby conducts a review of its laws about every four years, typically after Rugby World Cup, and they evaluate current law and we have had (All Blacks Coach) Steve Hansen and (Chiefs Coach) on the Law Review Group looking at these laws," he told allblacks.com.

“That group has come out with a number of suggested changes, some of which they have asked New Zealand trial."

The following will be trialled next year:

Mitre 10 Cup:
•    Two referees
•    New points system – 8 pts penalty try, 6 pts try, 2 pts DG, 2 pts PK, 2 pts Conv
•    Law 15: Tackler must get to feet then can only play the ball from his side of the mid-point of the breakdown; Tackler assist or first arriving player may play the ball as long they join from an onside position
•    Law 16:
–    Breakdown is formed when an attacking player of feet is over the ball on the ground, from this time no players may play the ball with their hands.
–    An off side line is created “hindmost foot 1 metre.
–    Arriving players may join from onside as long as they join their side of the midpoint (no gate).
–    No players may have their hands on the ground, or players already on the ground. A player in the half back position may play the ball

Mitre 10 Heartland & Women’s Provincial Championship
•    New points system – 8pts Penalty Try, 6pts Try, 2 pts each for PK, DG and Conv

Jock Hobbs Memorial Under 19 Championship
•    Two referees

Sorensen said the alternative points system would also likely be trialled in Mitre 10 Cup, as well as the Mitre 10 Heartland Championship and the Mitre 10 Women’s Provincial Championship.

The allocation of six points for a try and two for a penalty had already been trialled in Australia.

“It did have some massive changes in domestic rugby and it will be really interesting to see how it pans out in our domestic rugby next year," he added. 

"What they found in Australia was that were hardly any kicks at goal, a lot more kicking for touch, a lot more tries but there were other unintended consequences such as more yellow cards as the value of penalties was reduced.

“There’s a massive amount of work to do before we bring these laws into play. World Rugby will come back and give us the mechanics of the law (referee calls etc) but our referees team will also work with World Rugby and Provincial Unions to ensure a smooth implementation of the new rules.

“This is quite a daunting piece of work, but also very exciting to think we will have quite a different looking game next year.”

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