Rugby's law book to be shredded by 50 per cent to make it easier to understand
Rugby's law book is being shredded by a whopping 50 per cent, as the game gets closer to a much-needed simplification.
In the wake of a British and Irish Lions series against the All Blacks which threw up a number of refereeing controversies, fans can rest assured the wheels are certainly in motion to tidy up the mess that is the sport's rules.
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen was vocal post-series about the law book needing a spruce up. Unlike many other codes, rugby's nuances mean laws are generally just too hard to understand, and over time they have developed even further, to only add to the confusion. Even with increased use of television replays by match officials, there so often remains far too many grey areas.
But, by late 2018 we could all be enjoying a simpler game, thanks to the World Rugby Council's commissioning of a technical group to undertake a Laws Simplification Project.
New Zealand Rugby high performance referee manager Rod Hill was nominated by NZR to help run the project, and over the last 18 months he has been involved in completely re-writing the law book.
"I've had three three-day lockups, where we've got through everything in the law book and said 'how do we make it easier to read and easier to understand'," he said.
Hill was joined by two others from South Africa and one from England, along with three from World Rugby.
The first meeting was in Edinburgh in February last year. After that, the group paired off, taking seven laws between them, before reporting back and peer-reviewing at the second meeting in San Francisco last July. There was then a conference call meeting in September to finalise things.
"We've reduced the number of words in the law book by 50 per cent," Hill said.
"What's happened over a period of time, is that, as there's been some changes, they've just been added to the law book and it's a bit piecemeal. So you had exceptions here and there.
"So this project was about 'let's start from scratch and make sure it all reads well', to reshape the law book to get that as an outcome."
Hill said the revised book was based on a comprehension level of school years eight and nine, with it run it through computer software to ensure it meets those levels.
The book has gone through World Rugby's Laws Review Group - which Chiefs coach Dave Rennie sits on - who have signed it off, and have handed it to World Rugby's Rugby Committee.
World Rugby has now sent the book to the national unions, with Hill giving it to half a dozen people in New Zealand - referees and coaches, those he says have been close to the law book for many years.
"What they're looking for is: Is the intent of the law still correct? Are there any glaring errors? And all our New Zealand people that have looked at it have said it's great," Hill said.
The book has been written in its usual English, French and Spanish, but it will also be rolled out in another seven languages, once issues with interpretation are worked through.
In the meantime, the Rugby Committee are to meet in the next couple of weeks to give the green light to a global trial of seven new laws, which were passed by majority vote by Rennie's Laws Review Group via phone conference last week.
Rennie is the sole Kiwi on the panel, having replaced Hill during this latest cycle because World Rugby were keen on having a team coach involved. He said at the moment a lot of the laws were ambiguous, and was positive about what lay ahead after this reform.
"They're simple changes that bring into law what most people thought was law anyway," Rennie said. "So it's just common sense.
"A lot of the laws have been tidied up to do the obvious - make it easier for the punters to understand, and coaches and players hopefully.
"You know what coaches are like, too, we find ways around the law. So less laws, less chances to do that."
The seven laws just voted on were trialled during last month's World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Georgia.
The most notable variations are the tackler only being able to play the ball from his side of the tackle "gate" and a change in regards to what constitutes a ruck.
Under the new laws, one attacker or defender on his or her feet over the ball create a ruck (instead of the current requirement for both), and therefore the offside line.
It's understood England were opposed to putting this set of laws put through for trial, which is ironic considering they were the ones done over by Italy's shock tactic in this year's Six Nations, where players stood in what seemed offside positions but which weren't, because of tackle-only situations.
Should World Rugby sign off, the trials of these seven laws will go ahead in the southern hemisphere from January 1 next year, and in the northern hemisphere from August 1 this year. It will be a double whammy for the north, who will also be trialling five laws which are currently being trialled in the south.
At the completion of the northern season in mid 2018, the trials will be reviewed by the Laws Review Group in June, with recommendations made to the Rugby Committee in October, then Council to confirm the amendments in November 2018.