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NZ provincial rugby adopts trial laws

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 5/04/2016

NZ Rugby general manager rugby Neil Sorensen © Getty Images/Phil Walter NZ Rugby general manager rugby Neil Sorensen Six-point tries and some fundamental rule changes will operate on a trial basis in New Zealand domestic rugby this year.

New laws aimed at making the game safer, simpler and more attractive will be trialled in the NPC and the second-tier Heartland Championship, NZ Rugby announced on Tuesday.

There will be amendments to laws related to the tackle and breakdown, while the point-scoring changes will be introduced to the Heartland Championship only.

The new scoring system will award six points for a try and two points for penalties and dropped goals.

NZ Rugby general manager rugby Neil Sorensen said testing new laws represents a chance for New Zealand's teams and players to influence the global game.

"It's always exciting to be part of a process that looks to keep the game fresh and relevant," he said.

"We believe (the laws) will help make the game safer to play, will be easier to understand, and as a result more entertaining to watch."

The trials are part of a cyclical law review undertaken by World Rugby every four years. New laws could be considered for a global trial next year and possible adoption in 2018.

The latest proposed changes have had input from All Blacks coach Steve Hansen and Chiefs coach Dave Rennie.

Under the tackle change which favours the attacking team, the tackler must release the ball carrier and rejoin the tackle from a less-advanced position. The next arriving defender can only play at the ball if they are on their feet and a breakdown hasn't formed.

The main change to the breakdown involves the formation of an imaginary offside line behind the hindmost foot for both teams. Players must join the breakdown from behind the line, must be fully bound and on their feet.

Sorenson said eight provincial unions have already implemented the law trials in their premier club competitions.

They will be employed in Hawke's Bay's early-season Ranfurly Shield challenges before being adopted by all provincial teams in their competitions running from August to late October.

"These trials will help us to discover how much these law adjustments change the mechanics of how we play the game," Sorenson said.

"We will examine the match data and see if they have had the desired effect of creating a safer and more entertaining game of rugby."

There was an earlier proposal to consider the use of two referees. However, it has been dropped for this round of law trials.

Super Rugby is already trialling another new law, which allows a team to kick for touch and take a lineout if they are awarded a penalty after time is expired.

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