World Rugby starts law review process

Law book reviewWorld Rugby have set out the plan and process behind the next round of extensive law reviews. The process takes place every four years, and has already kicked off with technical experts critiquing the game’s law book following commentary and feedback submitted by unions.  In their announcement, World Rugby said that the laws “health-check” is undertaken with a focus on the enhancement of player welfare, the maximisation of enjoyment for players and fans, while making sure the sport can continue to develop at all levels around the world.

There are seven agreed principles around law review:

  1. Player welfare, especially concussion, is the number-one priority
  2. The laws must allow for a fair contest for possession, especially in the contact area, in general play and when play is restarted at scrums, lineouts and kick-offs
  3. The game remains a sport for all shapes and sizes, for men and women, and for boys and girls
  4. The unique identities of the game must be maintained, including the scrum, lineout, ruck, maul, tackle, kick-off and restarts
  5. Any changes must promote enjoyment for participants and entertainment for spectators and must be in line with World Rugby’s core values of passion, respect, integrity, discipline and solidarity
  6. The laws must be applicable by match officials
  7. The game should be as easy to understand as possible for players, coaches, match officials and spectators

Earlier this week, the expert Law Representation Group (LRG) met in London to critique feedback in order to make recommendations for the Rugby Committee to consider at its next meeting in September. The LRG is made up of coaches, players, referees, medics and union delegates. (full list below)

The LRG considers the application of existing law, edits or re-writes of law and the introduction of new laws deemed appropriate for local trial. The process could culminate in law amendments within the next Rugby World Cup cycle but there will be no changes prior to RWC 2015 in England later this year.

The scrum and breakdown was a particular area of focus with the group agreeing that the crouch-bind-set scrum engagement sequence had proved successful in reducing scrum injuries, but more work was needed to consider strategies to improve scrum duration and completion rates. They also agreed to consider proposals regarding the tackle, ruck and maul with a view to maintaining a fair contest for possession while also enhancing player welfare.

Speaking following the two-day meeting, LRG and Rugby Committee Chairman John Jeffrey said, “World Rugby is committed to continual review and assessment of the laws of the game to ensure that the game is enjoyable to watch and play and is as safe to play as possible at all levels, from the elite, professional tier right down to community and youth rugby.

“This important process occurs after every Rugby World Cup and is an opportunity to take stock, review the laws, drawing on expert input and make changes where needed with those who play and support the game and ongoing prosperity of the sport in mind.

“It was great to see our unions and associations making such a strong contribution, while the level of expertise and discussion from our expert group when considering the submissions was very impressive. We have lots to consider and some interesting proposals to develop.”

New Zealand All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen added: “We all have a responsibility to ensure that rugby is as simple, enjoyable and safe to play as possible. It was a fascinating review and I look forward to ongoing involvement in this important process.”

The LRG membership

  • Ben Whittaker (ARU)
  • Pablo Bouza (UAR)
  • Rob Andrew (RFU)
  • Didier Retiere (FFR)
  • David Nucifora (IRFU)
  • Steve Hansen (NZR, who replaced Dave Rennie, who was unavailable due to competition commitments)
  • Giulio de Santis (FIR)
  • Rachael Burford (Rugby Athletes’ Commission)
  • Andre Watson (SARU)
  • Chris Paterson (SRU ambassador)
  • Nigel Whitehouse (WRU, who replaced Ryan Jones, who was unavailable due to competition commitments

World Rugby attendees: Brett Gosper (Chief Executive), Joël Jutge (High Performance Match Officials Manager) and Mark Harrington (Head of Technical Services).

Law review cycle 2015-18

Early 2015 – Call for suggested amendments
Mid-2015 – LRG reviews suggestions made by unions/regional associations
September 2015 – Rugby Committee meets to discuss proposals
Early 2016 – Initial trials (if appropriate) are conducted in relevant competitions
Mid-2016 – Any initial trials are reviewed by LRG
October 2016 – Any initial trials are reviewed by Rugby Committee
November 2016 – Global trials (if appropriate) are approved by World Rugby Council
January 2017 – Any such global trials start in southern hemisphere and August 2017 in northern hemisphere
June 2018 – Any global trials are reviewed by LRG
October 2018 – Recommendations are made to Rugby Committee
November 2018 – Council confirms law amendments (if appropriate) at a special meeting and the law is changed accordingly


BUTTON-Have-your-say What do you think? What areas of the game need most attention? What would you seek to change? Comment below (but please be original!)


  1. It may have the effect of keeping the scrum more ‘honest’ as what it should be, a means of restarting the game.

  2. Following on from theincident in the Worcester v Quins game yesterday. The Quins second row attempted to charge down a kick, didn’t get there and put the warriors no.10 out of the game. Barnes reviewed and saw ‘nothing in it.’ Surely the player attempting the charge down has a duty of care to the kicker? Barnes seemed to be basing his decision on perceived intent rather than outcome. If the charger collides with the kicker is there not an element of recklessness? Had this been a tackle situation then the Quins player would have been deemed to have not used his arms.

    • Posted the above because I believe the law makers need to underpin the changes with a duty of care eg lineout jumper to his opposite number, front-row to front-row, tackler and tackled etc

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