All Blacks disadvantaged by law trials, referee Wayne Barnes believes

Referee Wayne Barnes acknowledges the All Blacks will be at a disadvantage on the end-of-year tour because of the new ...
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Referee Wayne Barnes acknowledges the All Blacks will be at a disadvantage on the end-of-year tour because of the new law trials.

Top international referee Wayne Barnes believes the All Blacks and the rest of the southern hemisphere sides will be at a disadvantage on their end-of-year tours because of the new World Rugby law trials.

Barnes and fellow England RFU elite referees have been working with national coach Eddie Jones, as he looks to take full advantage of law changes to the scrum and ruck, which will be unfamiliar to the touring sides in the November internationals.

The World Rugby law trial came into force for the European club season, but did not apply for Super Rugby or the Rugby Championship, and will only start down south from January 1.

England coach Eddie Jones is leaving no stone unturned in tapping into the knowledge of the RFU's elite referees.
ADAM HOLT/REUTERS

England coach Eddie Jones is leaving no stone unturned in tapping into the knowledge of the RFU's elite referees.

"Unfortunately for the southern-hemisphere [teams], come November they'll be playing under our laws so they've got to get used to them," Barnes said. "We all know that Eddie has a keen eye for detail and he will be keen for us [referees] to just add to that. If we get a small advantage up here, I'm sure the coaches will try to use it.

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"We will go in and support them, whether it is me, JP [Doyle] or Matt [Carley] we will be in every single one of their training sessions... so when they have their contact sessions they get used to how they are being refereed."

The six new law amendments were announced in July. Three relate to the scrum in a bid to make it a fairer contest, including allowing all members of the front row to attempt to 'strike' for the ball after it has been fed.

Added to that, the No 8 may pick up the ball at the feet of the locks, rather than having to wait for it to make its way to between his legs.

And although the halfback must feed the ball straight, they may now stand with their shoulder aligned to the middle of the scrum, further to their side of the set-piece.

World Rugby hopes the alterations ensure the team feeding maintains the advantage.

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The other three law trials are at the tackle and ruck.

At the tackle, instead of the tackler being able to play the ball from any direction after getting up, they must now only play it from their side of the tackle 'gate'.

A ruck is now formed when at least one player is on their feet and over the ball on the ground, creating the offside line. This differs to the previous requirement for one player from each team to create the ruck. Players on their feet will now be able to pick up the ball on the ground as long as no opposition player has joined the ruck.

Players may also no longer kick the ball out of a ruck, but can 'hook' it back towards their own side.

The All Blacks did have their chance to play with a leg-up in the British and Irish Lions tour, when some trials came into effect in the southern hemisphere first - from the start of this year - though they were probably considered less invasive.

A penalty try was made an immediate seven points, teams could play a lineout from a penalty with time up, uncontested scrums had to be made up of eight players per side, if more than one penalty advantage was played teams could choose the most advantageous mark for penalty, and the plane of touch law was also altered.

The Lions were shown specially-commissioned video clips from World Rugby to ensure they were up to speed with the new changes.

"The Lions hadn't played under those laws so they got experts in to help them and speak to them in trial matches in the lead up to it," Barnes added. "I'm sure Australia and New Zealand will be doing the same.

"New Zealand start with the Barbarians out here which helps, obviously, and it will take them time. They're the best players in world and the top six teams in the sport are playing each other.

"But I don't think it will take long for the visiting teams to work it out.

"Unfortunately for me I've got to go back down to do Australia v New Zealand under the old laws so I have to get my mind back into that. At the moment, it's that bit of an anomaly situation with the world calendar."

The All Blacks play the Barbarians tour-opener in London on November 5 (NZ time), then play France in Paris (November 12), a French XV in Lyon (November 15), Scotland in Edinburgh (November 19) and Wales in Cardiff (November 26).

 - Stuff

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