2014 NRL rule changes

The National Rugby League have published changes to rules for this year’s competition.  Overall the changes look positive with more game time, a quicker game aided by fewer options for scrums.  In a few instances referee’s will need to make their own judgement. As always in our game consistency amongst officials is a hot-topic.  These rule changes are only for matches under the National Rugby League banner and don’t apply to International matches.

We look at what the amendments means for the game and whether they will work.

Zero tackle from twenty metre restart

This is a positive move.  Too many times the last tackle kick is deliberately kicked dead in-goal to prevent good fullbacks and wingers from running the ball out from their own line.  This rule change will hopefully put an end to meaningless kicks with the disadvantage being that you have to defend for seven, not six tackles.  It will also encourage more teams to run with the ball on the final tackle when they are close to the try line.  Its a greater advantage to turn over the ball ten metres from the line rather than restarting from the twenty.  As for the referee’s, this should be an easy implementation.  But as we have seen with the Sharks v Cowboys final it’s a matter of counting the right amount of tackles.

40/20 tap kick

Not that we get many scrums lost against the team feeding the ball, but the 40/20 advantage will now include a 100% guarantee that the team making the play will receive the ball from a tap kick in the same spot a scrum would normally form.  Can’t see any arguments against the move.

Out on the full will result in a handover

A handover will occur when a scrum would normally be packed, with the advantage going to the team who would normally receive a feed from the opposing side kicking out on the full.  The handover and 40/20 rule amendments will speed up the game at the referee’s discretion, of course.

Game final five extended

During the last five minutes of a match, the clock will stop following a conversion or penalty kick at goal until play restarts at halfway.  Good rule change and I can see where this would tie in with other incidents that may occur where rule changes have been made.  But this rule doesn’t cover teams being slow to scrums, or goal line drop out restarts.  This will continue to be a grey area where the referee’s will need to use their judgement.  In the majority of games it won’t change the result.  But in the close matches you would hope the referee’s do the right thing and stop the clock.

Quick taps from penalties

A quick penalty restart will be permitted on any infringement except 10m penalties, where the referee issues a caution or within 10m of the opposition goal line.  This will be one to watch with interest.  Will a referee allow a team a quick tap when they are short of the oppositions try line and no mark has been given for the penalty?  This again will come down to referee interpretation.  Just another thing the poor refs need to make a call on when they have so much to consider during a game.

Captains time with referees

Captains will only be able to speak to referees during a stoppage in play (tries, injury break or when referee is issuing a caution). Penalties and scrums are not considered stoppages of play. Captains will be given an opportunity to speak to the referees as players leave the field for half-time.  It’s a great move with fans set to applaud from the stands at the change.  But it won’t stop a cheeky or desperate captain from questioning the referee outside the specified stoppages.  What will the referee do then?  Blow a penalty to discourage the tactic?

Eighty second kick shot clock

Attempts at goal will see time called off after 80 seconds.  At 100 seconds, the club will be fined for their goal kickers taking too much time over a goal.  Good rule as it keeps the game consistent with time in play.  No one will begrudge a kicker for taking more time when scores are level at the end of normal time.

Cannonball tackles

When a player is being held in an upright position by two defenders, any additional tackler must make initial contact to the player in possession above the knee.  In addition, referees will be instructed to call held earlier on upright tackles to deter unnecessary third-man tackles.  This rule can only improve the safety of players and limit the risk of injury.  Again referee’s will need to show consistency in making judgements, something that is not guaranteed.

Crusher tackles

The Match Review Committee will be directed to charge crusher tackles at the higher end of the scale to provide a greater deterrent.  The first step is that referee’s need to detect a crusher tackle and act upon the illegal play.  But first they need to decide whether a tackle is deemed to be a ‘crusher’ tackle or not.  And this can be a grey area.  Watch this one with interest.

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