WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — Rule changes designed to speed up the game and keep the ball in play will be introduced in Super Rugby tournaments in Australia and New Zealand this season as governing bodies strive to keep fans engaged.
New Zealand’s Super Rugby Aotearoa competition will see the introduction of a goal line dropout and a captain’s challenge, similar to the review system which operates in cricket.
Australia will introduce an extra-time “golden try” and 30-second time limits on restarts after points are scored. The moves are designed to encourage “action, options and less dead time” in matches, their proponents say.
Law changes introduced in Australia last year including the ability to replace a red-carded player after 20 minutes, a 50/22 kicking rule and a five-second time limit to use the ball when available at rucks will remain in place.
Under the new Australian law changes, teams will have just 30 seconds to restart play after points are scored. Scrum resets will also be timed by television match officials to prevent unnecessary delays.
In matches which are tied at the end of normal time, the team that scores the first try in extra time will win. The move attempts to encourage more attacking play in overtime.
Rugby Australia director of rugby Scott Johnson said while there will be an onus on referees to speed up the game, the changes had not be made solely to make matches more entertaining.
“That’s not our mandate; we want to make winning Wallabies teams,” Johnson said. “We are cognizant of the fact it’s a competitive sporting landscape in Australia but it’s not at the top of our agenda.”
Super Rugby Aotearoa will introduce the rugby league-style innovation of a goal line drop kick. The kick will be taken by the defending team when an attacking player is held up or knocks on in goal. The rule will also apply when a kick other than a penalty or drop goal attempt, is grounded in goal or otherwise made dead.
During matches, captains will have 10 seconds after a try is scored to challenge anything since the last stoppage. From the 75th minute, a challenge can be made whether or not a try is scored, and foul play can be challenged at any time.
An incorrect challenge will result in a team losing all future challenges.
New Zealand Rugby high performance manager Mike Anthony said the rule changes had won “great support” from players and coaches.
The goal line dropout would “reward attacking teams by allowing them to build pressure and to encourage defending teams to clear the ball from their in-goal area.
“We’re constantly looking at how we can make the game faster and fairer, a better spectacle,” Anthony said.
New Zealand rugby referees manager Bryce Lawrence supported the captain’s challenge.
“Rugby is a fast-paced and at times complex game so another set of eyes is always a good thing,” he said. “We’ve seen this sort of concept succeed in other sports and we want to see how it goes when applied to rugby.”
Rugby Australia rejected the idea of a captain’s challenge because, it said, it was possible play would have to be taken back 30 phases to address some minor infringement which occurred in the lead-up to a try.
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