Minor Law Amendments

World Rugby announce six law changes for 2017/18

The World Rugby Executive Committee has approved the addition of six law amendments to the programme of global law trials.

The amendments, which have been tried in specific international competitions this year, relate to the scrum (Law 20) and tackle/ruck (Laws 15 and 16), and are aimed at making the game simpler to play and referee, as well as further protecting player welfare.

The six law amendments will debut in full from 1 August 2017 in the northern hemisphere, and from 1 January 2018 in the southern hemisphere, and are as follows…

Throwing the ball into the scrum

Law 20.5 & 20.5 (d) 5

No signal from referee. The scrum-half must throw the ball in straight, but is allowed to align their shoulder on the middle line of the scrum, therefore allowing them to stand a shoulder width towards their own side of the middle line.

Rationale: To promote scrum stability, a fair contest for possession while also giving the advantage to the team throwing in.

Handling in the scrum – exception

Law 20.9 (b)

The number eight shall be allowed to pick the ball from the feet of the second-rows.

Rationale: To promote continuity.

Striking after the throw-in

Law 20

Once the ball touches the ground in the tunnel, any front-row player may use either foot to try to win possession of the ball. One player from the team who put the ball in must strike for the ball.

Rationale: To promote a fair contest for possession.

Sanction: Free-kick

Law 15.4 (c)

The tackler must get up before playing the ball and then can only play from their own side of the tackle “gate”.

Rationale: To make the tackle/ruck simpler for players and referees and more consistent with the rest of that law.


Law 16

A ruck commences when at least one player is on their feet and over the ball which is on the ground (tackled player, tackler). At this point the offside lines are created. Players on their feet may use their hands to pick up the ball as long as this is immediate. As soon as an opposition player arrives, no hands can be used.

Rationale: To make the ruck simpler for players and referees.

Other ruck offences

Law 16.4

A player must not kick the ball out of a ruck. The player can only hook it in a backwards motion.

Rationale: To promote player welfare and to make it consistent with scrum law.

Sanction: Penalty


A number of minor law amendments will come into effect for the 2016/17 season and will apply from the 1st July 2016. There are seven amendments and one interpretation change :

  1. The replacement of an injured player following foul play does not count as one of the allotted number of replacements available to that team.
  2. Advantage may be played following a scrum collapse if there is no player safety risk.
  3. Play acting or “simulation” is specifically outlawed so any player who dives or feigns injury in an effort to influence the match officials will be liable for sanction.
  4. Teams must be ready to form a scrum within 30 seconds unless the referee stops the clock for an injury or another stoppage.
  5. At a re-set scrum following a 90-degree wheel, the put-in will remain with the team that previously threw it in.
  6. The scrum-half following the ball around a scrum may not move into the space between the flanker and number eight.
  7. When the ball has been at the No.8’s feet in a stationary scrum for 3-5 seconds, the referee will call “use it” and the attacking team must use the ball immediately.

In addition, a new maul guideline means that the ball must be moved backwards hand-to-hand once the maul has formed and a player is not allowed to slide to the back of the maul when he/she is in possession of the ball.

From 3 January 2017 tougher sanctions will be imposed for reckless and accidental contact with the head. For a more comprehensive explanation visit World Rugby’s YouTube channel.


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