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Thursday May 28, 2020

World Rugby's temporary law changes receive mixed reaction

It is fair to say that World Rugby’s temporary law amendments have not been universally accepted by the public. 

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In a pursuit to reduce contact exposure in rugby, and therefore facilitate a quicker return to playing during the COVID-19 pandemic, ten optional law changes were announced today with the aim of reducing the amount of time in scrums, rucks and mauls. 

Reducing such fundamental elements of the game of rugby union has obviously led to suggestions that this is moving closer to rugby league, where in one instance the concept of a goal line drop-out has been taken from the other code. 

On top of that, many have been quick to highlight that rugby is a contact sport, and that it is ultimately a tough job in overcoming that to reduce the spread of the virus. But many also are acutely aware that this is the best approach in seeing a return to rugby as soon as possible.

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Aside from the concerns that these laws are a way of World Rugby speeding up the game through the backdoor, chiefly by reducing the number of scrums, fans have been cherry picking which law changes could potentially be carried forward when normal service resumes.

The idea of an orange card attracted some interest, as it will help with making fairer decisions by giving television match officials a greater chance to analyse an offence. 

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Similarly, the goal line drop-out idea has not been as emphatically dismissed as some other suggestions have. This will be awarded to a defending team when they have held the opposition up over their line, therefore eliminating the scrum. 

Many people have always seen the five-metre scrum as an unfair response to holding a team up, as it essentially rewards the attacking team with a platform to score, and moreover punishes the defending team for their good defence. 

Other changes, such as removing the effectiveness of the choke tackle, have had different responses, which may largely be down to where people come from. 

The very fact that these changes are optional, and have already been turned down by some unions, such as in the upcoming Super Rugby Aotearoa, suggests that they may not be as damaging as some are fearing.

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