Rugby Coaching Blog | Professional Rugby Advice & Coaching

Watch out, ruck and scrum laws may be moving again! by David Clarke
January 25, 2010, 4:41 pm
Filed under: Dan Cottrell, Rugby News | Tags: , , , ,

News from the Super 14s and Tri Nations

Here is something from the New Zealand RFU on the latest rulings on the ruck:

SANZAR reviews rucks and scrums – attackers favoured

Both the rights of a tackled player and scrums will be subject to changed conditions in 2010, after meetings with SANZAR officials ensured that the focus on the ruck and the forward engagements will be policed to allow a cleaner game.

The new changes will ensure that the attacking side has the advantage at the tackle area. Essentially the tackler will no longer have carte blanche to steal the ball, and the ball carrier more rights to enable his support to recycle.

It has been agreed that often the tackler wins the penalty in a ruck situation, which is going against the premise of promoting attacking rugby.

At scrum time, poor techniques, questionable tactics and repeated resets have led to a huge increase in time spent on what has become in the eyes of many a vexed set piece.

The International Rugby Board has assessed that 12% of an 80 minute match is spent resetting scrums. This is close to 10 minutes.

Offenders, namely in the front rows, will now be under the direct jurisdiction of the respective countries scrum coaches.

Mike Cron (NZ), Pat Noriega (AUS) and Balie Swart (SA) will now oversee their respective countries franchises/teams.

SANZAR referee’s manager Lyndon Bray spoke to the Dominion Post about making rugby a more open game, and ensuring that more time is spent with ball in play.

“We’ve agreed philosophically to change what the tackler can and can’t do,” Bray said.

“He is doing too much. We’ve allowed, in the evolution of the game, to let him remain in contact with the ball and ball carrier after he leaves his feet and he stays on the ball and jumps up and rips it away.”

This has seen the game develop into a situation where teams are afraid to move the ball wide, for if the ball carrier is isolated, it inevitably leads to a turnover.

“It looks great in the one-on-one scenario, but it’s actually against the law. It creates in the game a repetitive scenario where the ball carrier ends up with no rights because he can’t do anything with the ball.”

“The tackler inevitability gets the penalty which philosophically goes against what we are trying to achieve. We’ve agreed the tackler must release everything when he goes to ground and not hold on as he gets to his feet.”

This will give tackled players more time to place the ball, and will ensure that players not making a clean release after the tackle and getting to their feet will be penalised. However the infringement for holding on will still stand, albeit a potential scavenger needs to follow a specific process.

The days of specialists such as Richie McCaw holding onto a tackler or ball and essentially using that as a counterweight to swing to their feet and attack possession may be over.

Last year referees and coaches met, and planted the idea that the game would benefit with different approaches to key areas.

Key amongst this was ensuring a defending team did not have more rights.

Secondary was ensuring that the scrum was a set piece platform, and not a time consuming minefield that could ultimately deter fans from watching the product.

“We came up collectively with the fact that we had to create a greater ownership for changes in behaviour and essentially that was around the technique used at the tackle and at scrum time,” Bray said.

“We agreed that if we carried on doing the workshops we had in the past and came up with decisions on the run that the onus always came back to the guy in the middle with the whistle. We decided that wasn’t going to cut the mustard for 2010. We said we had to listen to the criticism of where our game is at and we have to produce a cleaner and more attractive spectacle.”

“If our reason for existence is to have one of the best competitions in world rugby then we have to recreate time and space on the field and recreate the attack with confidence that we used to have in Super 14 … it means more control from the ball carrier and more control for the attacking team.”

Changes in the scrum will take a more direct tact.

Offending players will be scrutinised and approached. If they cannot remedy their approach, then they will essentially be publically exposed.

“If the Hurricanes scrum for example have poor technique or use a poor tactical technique in week one to disrupt the scrum we will be going in privately and saying you have a problem and we will use Mike Cron to deliver the message, which gives it teeth,” Bray said.

“We will expect a change of behaviour from them. If they don’t deal with it then we have the right and permission from teams to go public.”

This will also apply to referees.

In summary


The ruck will favour the attacking team

The tackler’s rights will no longer be deemed as being unlimited.

A tackler must released the tackled player and ball and get to their feet before scavenging.


Offenders will be approached by the country’s scrum coach

Teams, players and referees will be made aware of the issue

Media will be made aware of the repeat offenders

Better Rugby Coaching


7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

again a change because southern hemisphere teams sufferd in the autumn in the scrum area. When s/a started kicking 55 metres plus last year, they talked about changing the weight of the ball, when Giavani destroyed them in the scrum, they cry and want not to arm their front row, but disarm everyone else. Let Sanzar do what they want, they are losing fans because they play boring rugby with “franchises” not clubs… no local tribalism, and no-one cares.

Comment by bob

If the tackler now has to let go if the person tackled and get to his feet before attempting to get the ball, what’s to stop the tackled player simple getting back to his feet, picking up the ball and continuing. I know that this may be difficult at the higher level of play but at the grass roots level, this might cause more problems than it resolves.

Comment by Chris Clovis

the ruck law doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t address the fact that players supporting their weight with their hands/elbows on the floor or knees on the tackled player ARE OFF THEIR FEET -see the IRB rule book. The law exists,refs aren’t policing it and coaches coach to the refs.
Simple solution- playres in the ruck must be on their feet with hips above shoulder level.

Comment by gareth hamer

Regards the tackler at the tackle, the law has not changed, in that the tackler must realese the tackled player before returning to his/her feet and playing the ball. In the national leagues this is refereed as the law book states, but isn’t at the elite level. As a referee i/we award penalties againstthe tackler for not releasing. Maybe it’s not such a problem at our level as the players probably are not coached in that minute detail due tolack of time. However, there are many instance in every elite game where the tackler has won the penalty and it is obvious he has not relaeased the tackled player at any time before playing the ball. Referee’s at this level need to be instructed to be firmer on the tackler and ref to the laws of the game.

Comment by Julian Smith

I fear that the only way to ensure that less time is wasted re-setting scrums is to have both assistant refs, TV ref and a new front row specialist TV ref with at least 3 cameras at his disposal watching every scrum very intently and then punishing every collapse (randomly if need be).

Comment by Alan Ferguson

I think for coaches we have been constantly educating players over new law changes for the last 4-5 years and mabey more.
its indeed so important for coaches to keep up to date and in the know of what the changes are as they have to be relayed to the players.
its like anything we either adapt or dissapear
guys with the whistles always get the brunt of the law changes as some coaches and players dont really want to change.

what i really think.
we just need to get on with it and buy doing this and understanding the new rules as they happen we can then coach our players to learn to change and adapt

but lets not look to change every year.

Comment by iharaira

rucks are not rucks any more; thy are mucks ,that is a hybrid ‘tween rucks and mauls. 1st weekend of super rugby – the intent was good but some refs are more lenient than others on interpretation and that is where the annoyance comes in for refs, players , coaches and the fans who we have to win back and quickly.

Comment by john taylor

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