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28 Feb 2017 0:09
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  •   Home > News > Sports > Rugby

    Players ready for new trial laws: NZRU

    New Zealand Rugby expects its players to be fully acclimatised to the sport's new trial laws, particularly on high tackles, come the start of Super Rugby.


    New Zealand Rugby insists there will be no excuses for players who contravene the sport's new trial laws in Super Rugby this year.

    Referees have personally visited each of the five Kiwi franchises in the past month to explain the changes, which have also been in effect for pre-season trials.

    Those changes include the much-publicised new trials around high tackle laws, but also changes to scrum pre-engagement, touch rules and TMO usage.

    In an attempt to crack down on concussion, rules around high tackles have been streamlined and strengthened by the game's organising body.

    Referees will now consider two key questions when dealing with a suspected high tackle - the location and force of the blow.

    If force is exerted on the upper body and the arm slips upwards, or if force on the head is minimal, only a penalty will be awarded.

    Any genuine force exerted onto the head will result in a yellow card, while direct blows to the head with maximum force are immediate red cards.

    The rule has already been in place for northern hemisphere competitions, but has since been harmonised after resulting in a torrent of sin-bins.

    "They're more aware now that they've got to tackle smarter," Kiwi referee Ben O'Keefe said.

    "We can still make strong tackles, drive people back, but make sure the body position isn't at risk of making a high tackle."

    The rugby TMO will now resemble that seen in the NRL, with the referee making a definitive on-field decision for the video referee to approve or reject.

    Evidence must be compelling for the TMO to overturn a referee's decision and the pair will not be able to engage in further debate on the play.

    "We're just getting to a point where the TMO sitting in the box has all the tech available and they're the best person available to make a call," O'Keefe said.

    "Hopefully it means we get quicker decisions, they're accurate and we have less back and forth."

    Scrum pre-engagement will also be overlooked if both sides have produced a stable scrum, while uncontested scrums must have a full eight players.

    On touch rules, players can also no longer collect kicks to touch or take marks while standing in the field of play - they must be fully out.

    O'Keefe said the overarching theme of the rule changes was reducing on-field head injuries and keeping the ball in play for longer.

    "For fans it means there's going to be more tries and fast-paced rugby to watch," he said.

    "There's a lot of pressure on World Rugby to get the game safe, but also to get the game right so there's a spectacle and we can see players with their skills."


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