Rugby union’s lawbook is set for its biggest shake-up in a generation after World Rugby announced it will introduce the 50-22 kick and goal-line drop outs next season as part of a raft of player welfare reforms.
Adapted from the the 40-20 rule in rugby league, a 50-22 kick will award an attacking team with a lineout should they kick the ball from within their own half into the opposition 22 on the bounce. The idea is to force defending teams to drop players into the back field creating more space for the attacking team to exploit.
A goalline drop out will replace attacking scrums when an attacking player is held up over the opposition goal line. The laws were recently trialled in the Super Rugby AU and the Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competitions and will be implemented as a global trial across elite rugby, including international rugby and the Gallagher Premiership, from August 1. It will not affect the British & Irish Lions series against South Africa as the tour had already begun.
Other law amendments will seek to clamp down on the latching with the banning of pods of three or more players before the ball has been received and tightening up the responsibilities of any one-player latch. Combined with the goalline drop out law, this could have a significant impact on the pick and go game perfected by sides like Exeter Chiefs. Jackalers should also be afforded more protection with any targeting of their lower limbs resulting in a penalty.
In an open letter to the rugby community, World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont will also signify his commitment to player welfare by promising increased after-care for professionals and introducing independent concussion consultants to preside over the graduated return to play process. This will apply when players return to play in ten days or under after suffering a concussion such as hooker Luke Cowan-Dickie who featured for the Lions a week after getting knocked out in the Premiership final for Exeter Chiefs.
In the letter, Beaumont writes: “Like all sports, rugby is not a game that is risk-free. But it is a sport that cares deeply for and prioritises its players, in particular around concussion and head injury. We do that so that parents can feel safe and want their children to play.
“Today, in line with our new strategic plan, World Rugby announces the next phase of our player welfare strategy to protect and grow the game we all love. Underpinning this strategy is a personal commitment from myself to never stand still when addressing questions of player welfare. Our ambition is for rugby to be the most progressive sport in the world on player welfare.”