Safety con­cerns prompt ref­er­ees to get tough on break­down fouls

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport / Rugby Union - By Gavin Mairs

Ref­er­ees are to im­ple­ment a crack­down on foul play at the break­down when the Premier­ship re­turns to­mor­row after safety con­cerns were raised by play­ers.

The ini­tia­tive is part of World Rugby’s “law ap­pli­ca­tion guide­line” de­signed to re­duce the risk of in­jury and speed up the game by pro­duc­ing quicker ball.

The new em­pha­sis will in­clude a greater ex­pec­ta­tion on tack­lers re­leas­ing the ball car­rier and rolling away im­me­di­ately to the side, while ball car­ri­ers will be al­lowed one dy­namic move­ment after be­ing tack­led, with an onus on pre­sent­ing or re­leas­ing the ball more quickly.

Clubs have been told that there will be stricter of­fi­ci­at­ing of how play­ers ar­rive at a break­down, with any side en­try re­sult­ing in a penalty, as will those who reck­lessly dive into col­li­sions.

Of­fi­cials hope the ini­tia­tive will re­duce the risk of play­ers tar­get­ing their op­po­nents’ knees and legs by en­sur­ing the height of the break­down is in­creased after warn­ing it had be­come “dan­ger­ous”.

“Play­ers were launch­ing them­selves into the break­down, ev­ery­thing was hap­pen­ing very low down and play­ers were off their feet and there was a lot of crit­i­cism so the whole idea was to make the break­down safer,” said Rugby Foot­ball Union ref­eree Tom Fo­ley.

“It means we won’t get play­ers tar­get­ing the joints and the legs of the tack­lers. Play­ers were re­ally con­cerned about the way the break­down was be­ing ref­er­eed.

“The in­ter­pre­ta­tion of side en­try was al­low­ing play­ers to tar­get the knees and legs and po­ten­tially in­jure them. This is why this is be­ing in­tro­duced.”

The law ap­pli­ca­tion was ap­proved by a group of in­ter­na­tional coaches, in­clud­ing for­mer Ire­land head coach Joe Sch­midt, play­ers, ref­er­ees, medics and law­mak­ers at a World Rugby meet­ing in March. The in­ter­pre­ta­tions re­sulted in a spike of penal­ties in the open­ing rounds of the Su­per Rugby Aotearoa in New Zealand and although the RFU has been li­ais­ing with the clubs dur­ing the lock­down about the change of em­pha­sis, Fo­ley warned there could be a sim­i­lar out­come when the Premier­ship re­sumed.

“There will be an ele­ment of cal­i­bra­tion,” said Fo­ley. “It is six months since any­one has done any­thing in anger, but we would like to think the work we have al­ready done will mean we don’t get huge swathes.

“But if a game has had 30 penal­ties and it prob­a­bly needed 30 penal­ties, then so be it.”

Con­cerns: For­mer Ire­land coach Joe Sch­midt was part of a group that ap­proved the change on foul play at the break­down

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