By Sam Phillips
World Rugby is set to introduce the 50-22 kick and goal line dropout in Test rugby and all competitions around the world from August 1.
The Herald can reveal the rule changes – which were Rugby Australia initiatives for the Super Rugby AU and trans-Tasman Super Rugby competitions – have been approved by the World Rugby executive committee (EXCO) and will be trialled for 12 months.
But the 20-minute red card – which has allowed teams Super Rugby teams to replace a player sent off for foul play after 20 minutes spent playing with 14 men – has not been approved.
Sources said World Rugby’s law advisory group were in favour of the change to the red-card system but World Rugby powerbrokers were concerned the punishment was not enough deterrent for players making dangerous high contact.
France and England were key drivers in the decision to not modify the red card rules.
The timeline of the new rule changes will see the Wallabies play under a different set of laws against France than they will against New Zealand, South Africa and Argentina in The Rugby Championship.
SANZAAR is set to hold a meeting on Thursday night to discuss the rule changes.
Rugby Australia is expected to push for the 20-minute red card to continue through The Rugby Championship at the meeting, given it has widely been considered a success through the Super Rugby competitions.
While RA is comfortable with the changes given Australian players have become accustomed to the new rules, sources said New Zealand Rugby were not in favour of the changes.
NZR do not believe the rule – which rewards the defending team with a dropout when they hold the opposition up over the line rather than awarding a five-metre scrum – provides enough reward for the attacking team.
The rule modification has seen teams recycle the ball more often when camped deep inside the opposition 22 rather than repeatedly turn to pick-and-drives to score.
It has also created the rugby equivalent of a hit-up after teams restart play with a dropout. Potential Wallabies debutant Pone Fa’amausili has created many highlights with some incredible runs from dropouts.
Super Rugby Aotearoa also did not feature the 50-22 rule, which is almost identical in concept to the NRL’s 40-20 rule.
While Australian Super Rugby sides only utilised the rule on a handful of occasions, defending teams were forced to defend without one or both of their wingers in the defensive line through the middle part of the field.
The shift in defensive shape has opened up more space for attacking rugby when kicks may have otherwise been employed.
The rule changes were part of a push from RA chair Hamish McLennan to make the game more appealing to broadcasters when the game’s television rights were up for grabs.
“We absolutely have to modify the rules and make it a differentiated product for television,” McLennan said at the time. “I think the broadcasters will possibly re-engage if we do that. The scrums currently take too long and we want more playing time.”
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