AS I SEE IT(22 /1)


By Terry O’Neill.

There are those who claim that to grow, one must change often.If this is true, the International Rugby Board would appear to have become almost rabid, when compared with its approach to changes in the past.Change for the sake of change has little chance of being accepted and when looking at rule changes to the game one might well ask,why?

Whether it has been the drop in temperature at the beginning of this week or whether the build up of super rugby stories has been some motivation, I feel  that the 2016 rugby season is approaching, or maybe its just a throwback to the whiff of liniment used prolifically in my time.Today liniment would have been looked upon as an performance enhancing additive, although it could have quite an impact on tender parts of the anatomy!

The 2016 rugby season will bring law changes although not necessarily across the board. Why introduce law changes at the first class level before club level is a bit of a mystery to me but rugby fans will have to get used to the fact that the beloved  “ruck” will no longer be in the rugby vocabulary, replaced by “breakdown”.Hands will not be allowed by the tackler thus negating the skills of Richie McCaw and David Pocock.Get used to the idea that there will be two referees on the paddock and that penalty tries will be worth eight points,a try worth six points and a penalty is reduced to two points.

The new “breakdown” will form as soon as just one attacking player is over the ball on the ground.The old “gate” is gone and as long as players come from their side of the ball they may enter at any angle.At the breakdown  it is proposed  that the offside line will be a metre back from the hindmost foot of the hindmost player. It is expected that  this will encourage defending teams to contest the breakdown more often instead of just creating picket fence defensive lines. It is envisaged that the “lead” referee will look after the breakdown and the second whistle blower will scrutinise the offside line.

The proposed laws have been trialled in domestic competitions in Australia, South Africa and Wales.In Australia it was noticeable that kicks at goal were reduced and there was a lot more kicking for touch but a lot more tries were scored,although on the negative side there were more yellow cards issued as the value of penalties had been reduced.

With the local club rugby set down to kick off on April 2nd, the Saturday after Easter, the North Otago Rugby Union is waiting for information from the NZRU as to which,when and if the law changes will be invoked.

It appears that the Citizens Shield and other competitions will utilise only the change in points for tries and penalties.One problem that will arise with the two referee suggestion is that with four referees,two assistant referees(line umpires) and the two on field referees, required for each game it may mean  that lower grades could suffer.

For those looking further afield the Heartland competition will start a week later on the 22nd August with the finals set down for 29th October after Labour weekend.

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