The 2018 Six Nations will see a number of law amendments come into force, some of which have already been trialled, with others set to come into force in the new northern hemisphere season.
The Lions tour of New Zealand saw a number of tweaks to the existing laws used, most notably with teams allowed to kick into touch from a penalty even after time had expired.
In addition to those changes, which also saw penalty tries become an automatic seven points and uncontested scrums requiring eight players per side, there are also six new law amendments.
Six new law amendments:
Throwing the ball into the scrum
1. Law 20.5 and 20.6 (d)
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 (non-offending team).
Handling in the scrum
2. Law 20.9 (b)
The No.8 shall be allowed to pick the ball from the feet of the second-rows.
Rationale: To promote continuity.
Striking after the throw-in
3. Law 20.8 (b)
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.
Tackler playing the ball
4. 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.
5. 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.
This law will put an end to the no-ruck tactic employed by Italy in last year’s Six Nations when they caught England by surprise in the first half of their encounter at Twickenham.
Rationale: To make the ruck simpler for players and referees.
Other ruck offences
6. 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.