CAPE TOWN – Will the new 50/22 law do the game any good?
Eight new laws will be trialled following the World Cup, with the above-mentioned being one of them.
The law will see the team whose player kicked the ball into touch in the opposition 22 from inside his own half, with a bounce before the ball went out, be awarded the throw-in at the resulting lineout. It’s similar to Rugby League’s 40-20 rule, which often sees the defender scurrying at the back to prevent the ball from going into touch after the opposition’s kick.
While it could be exciting in terms of keeping teams on their toes throughout the game it could, and most likely will, result in continuous aerial ping pong as both sides would want to go for such a prime attacking chance. Defending teams will have to guard touch on either side, and pump more players into the backfield, which will give defensive line fewer numbers, giving the attacking side a numerical advantage. It will always be the case anyway if the fullback joins the attacking line, but even more so if the new law comes into play. It could turn 14 and 13-man lines into 12-man lines.
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It could also see majority emphasis being placed on just freeing up a kicking boot before the 50-metre line to go for the lineout, with less emphasis being placed on clever, innovative attacking play to work your way upfield and attacking space. Accuracy will still be crucial, though.
Yes, the law could also see the players backfield go for the counter-attack and given the pressure that could be placed on defences, we could see more skilful, guily players play a bigger role on attack in exploiting space following the lineout in opposition 22, as opposed to bigger guys who play a bigger role when it comes to bashing defenders in a more even numerical lineup.
But it could also just see driving mauls become the automatic follow-up to the touch-finding kick and lineout, making it a monotonous affair… the opposite of the direction rugby is going in.
Frankly, if World Rugby is trying to promote attacking rugby, Varsity Cup laws would be a better call than this one. Varsity Cup has produced a few interesting concepts, ones I believe could work well in Super Rugby and even at Test level, like the white-card rule and even the difference in try points depending on where it originated from. That is something that encourages running rugby.
This one, not so much. It could very well result in the exact opposite.
Time will tell how this experiment will go, but until then, it seems like more of a miss than a hit.
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