The World Rugby Council has approved a global trial limiting the opportunity for non-playing personnel to enter the field of play during a match. Operational for all competitions and stand-alone matches starting after 1 July 2022, the trial aims to improve the flow of matches by reducing unnecessary stoppages without compromising welfare.
The trial follows an extensive review by the international federation of the current elite rugby environment, including research into player hydration needs, and increasing disruption to play caused by multiple water carriers entering the field of play every time there is a stoppage.
The new trial for non-medical personnel sets out a revised protocol for when medics and water-carriers, can access the field of play, limiting the ability to interact with the match officials, and providing a sanctioning framework for any action that that either interferes with play or is against the values of the sport.
The aim of the trial is to improve the flow of the game, reduce the opportunity for potential interference, enhance the spectacle for fans and support match management by match officials.
The trials have been devised in partnership with unions and key stakeholders, in particular International Rugby Players who are supporting the changes.
For all competitions, including Rugby World Cup 2021 playing in 2022, Rugby World Cup 2023 or stand-alone matches that begin after 1 July 2022 the following adjustments to Law 6 will apply:
- Can only provide water to players who they are treating
- Cannot field or touch a ball when it is live in play (sanction: penalty kick)
- Teams are permitted up to two dedicated water carriers
- Water carriers cannot be a Director of Rugby or Head Coach
- In elite-level rugby, water carriers will only be able to enter the field of play twice per half at points agreed with the match officials – this can only be during a stoppage in play or after a try has been scored
- A person bringing on a kicking tee may carry one bottle for the kicker’s use only
- These water/tee carriers must remain in the Technical Zone at all times before entering the field of play as permitted. Any attempt to field or touch the ball while it is live in play, including the technical zone, will be sanctioned with a penalty kick.
- No-one should approach, address or aim comments at the match officials, save for medics in respect of treatment of a player. Should this happen, the sanction will be a penalty kick.
Players on the field
- May access water behind the dead ball line or from within their Technical Zone at any time
Nigel Owens wants FOUR law changes to encourage ‘expansive rugby’
#1. Scrap the goal-line dropout
Owens wrote: “As for goal-line dropouts, I was a big fan initially because I felt it would prevent attacking teams from numerous pick-and-gos near the try line, with teams instead attempting to move the ball wide to avoid being held up and losing possession. But I’m not sure it has worked as planned. We still see plenty of pick-and-gos until teams get over, we still see plenty of mauls and the number of collisions hasn’t decreased.
“We are also seeing fewer scrums near the goal line, and to be honest I’m not sure that is a good thing. The scrum needs to be an important part of the game, and right now we are not seeing the benefits of it. Rugby must continue to be a game for all shapes and sizes, and at all levels, too.
Attacking teams are also kicking longer knowing that if the ball rolls dead, the defending team has to do a goal-line dropout and they can get the ball back. We’ve also lost the short dropouts we used to see from the 22-metre line where teams would compete to win the ball back, or a quick dropout would be taken, because teams now backed up on their goal line just kick the ball long to escape and what happens? The opposition kick it back.
“From initially believing it would work, I would now like the goal-line dropout law to go to be honest. If anything it is having a negative effect.”