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Eben Etzebeth. Image: X via Springboks

Home » World Rugby officially bans Springboks’ famous scrum move

World Rugby officially bans Springboks’ famous scrum move

World Rugby has officially outlawed the Springboks’ famous or infamous — depending how you look at it — scrum call off a mark.

09-05-24 19:35
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Eben Etzebeth. Image: X via Springboks

World Rugby has implemented three law changes that will come into effect on 1 July, with the aim to improve the game’s entertainment value while addressing safety concerns.

In a statement released on Thursday afternoon, the World Rugby Council confirmed that they have approved the amendments to enhance ball movement, expand attacking options and safeguard player welfare.

The new amendments specifically address offside rules from kicks in open play (AKA Dupont’s Law), refine the choices available from free-kicks, and ban the ‘crocodile roll’ tackle technique. These changes represent the latest phase of World Rugby’s “Shape of the Game” action plan designed to grow rugby’s audience by increasing accessibility and embracing innovation.

SPRINGBOKS’ EXPLOITATION OF FREE-KICK LAWS STOPPED

Maybe the most significant changes will be to laws around free-kicks.

For free-kicks, teams can no longer opt for a scrum. Instead, they are required to tap or kick the ball to keep play moving and create more attacking opportunities while reducing set-piece dead time.

During the Rugby World Cup quarter-final, Damian Willemse took the bold decision to call for a scrum after taking a mark in the Springboks’ 22 against France. It was a decision that took most viewers by surprise as players will usually kick for distance, or tap and run from that position.

However, it was a strategic move that paid off as the Springboks won a penalty from the subsequent set piece, allowing them get out of the danger zone with a free play and still retain possession.

WORLD RUGBY TWEAKS OFFSIDE LAW

The offside law has been rewritten to prevent players from being put onside when the opposition catches a kicked ball and either runs five metres or passes. Offside players must now actively attempt to retreat – creating more space for the opposing team to move the ball and reducing the amount of back-and-forth ‘kick tennis’ that often slows the game.

This change will kill the loophole which saw incidents of players receiving a ball but refusing to move forwards, effectively giving them time to kick the ball downfield in a ‘king of the pitch’ style back and forth.

SPECIFIC TACKLE LAW BANNED

The ‘crocodile roll’ – a tackle technique that involves rolling or pulling a player off their feet – has been banned to protect player safety and limit injuries. Penalizing this manoeuvre reinforces the importance of responsible tackling in rugby, World Rugby have said.

The law will help prevent some of the season-ending – and potentially career-ending – leg injuries that have resulted from the controversial practice.

ADDITIONAL LAW CHANGES IMPLEMENTED BY WORLD RUGBY

In addition to these law changes, World Rugby is conducting six closed law trials across its competitions. This will include the likes of the U20 Championship and the Pacific Nations Cup.

These trials – open for national unions to opt into – include a revised red card sanction system allowing a player replacement after 20 minutes and a 30-second shot clock for scrum and lineout settings.

Further innovations include ensuring the scrum-half is not contestable at the base of a ruck or maul – increasing attacking options by allowing a mark inside the 22-metre line from a restart – and making play at lineouts more fluid by allowing it to continue if the ball isn’t thrown straight but the contest is uncontested.

The law amendments and trials are part of a comprehensive review by World Rugby to address recurring issues like slow ball movement and inconsistent use of technology. With specialist working groups exploring areas such as tackle height and fan experience – World Rugby say they aim to broaden rugby’s appeal with streamlined presentation and terminology that will attract younger audiences.

Unions and competitions have the option of implementing the package of law trials.

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The Springboks celebrate winning the World Cup. Photo: SA Rugby website