Bray lauds law changes
SANZAR has adopted law changes for the 2013 Super Rugby season which SANZAR's game manager Lyndon Bray believes will be positive for the game.
SANZAR has adopted law changes for the 2013 Super Rugby season. Lyndon Bray, a former Test referee and now SANZAR's game manager, a portfolio that includes refereeing, has approved of the changes as being good for the game and discusses the four key changes which will have, in his view, a positive impact on the way the game is play.
The four 'key changes' are the five-second requirement at the ruck, the shortened scrum call, the quick throw-in from touch and the expanded TMO protocol.
1. Five seconds at the ruck
When the ball becomes available at a ruck, the referee will call 'Use it', and the player then has five seconds in which to bring the ball into action.
Bray: "This is a change that is positive for our brand of rugby in Super Rugby. It is a major change.
"Having to play the ball more quickly, gives the attacking team greater options. It makes play more urgent and gives the defending team less time to get organised.
"It certainly gets rid of the frustration of the deliberately slowed ball at a ruck.
2. The three-word scrum call
Last year SANZAR teams used the four-word call of crouch-touch-pause-engage. This year it will be crouch-touch-set.
Bray: "Getting rid of pause was a good idea. I could not understand having a word that didn't require an action. The change to three words is not a solution but a prudent, logical step.
"Then 'set' is a better word than engage - it is quicker, shorter word.
"We have to work with the 15 teams on the scrums - get them to make the scrum stable on crouch and touch before the hit. They must not force the referee to speed up his call and risk instability. And the referee must still win compliance before allowing the hit.
"Last season we had improvement in the percentage of scrums that work - that is when the scrum did not fall down, the ball came out and there was no sanction. The scrum is important for the games and is important as a phase of play in which teams get ascendancy.
"One spin-off from better scrums is the trend to more scoring of tries from scrums - as the All Blacks have shown."
"We have already been working with the teams and will continue to do so."
The law up to now has been that the throw-in could be taken anywhere behind where the ball went out and the throwing team's cornerpost, not where the line-out would necessarily take place. This was inhibiting where the kicking team had made a mistake - either at a kick-off or a direct kick outside the 22. Now the law allows the quick throw-in between the cornerpost and the place where the line-out would take place.
Bray: "It's a logical change."
4. Expanding the jurisdiction of the TMO
Up to now the TMO has been confined to the scoring of points - the try or the kick at goal. Now it has expanded to give him a say in identifying foul play and also identifying a clear and obvious infringement during a try-scoring phase of play, the review limited to two phases before the try is scored.
Bray: "The IRB's law review group approved this at their meeting before Christmas and the change is certainly heading in the right direction.
"The referee now has a chance to have incidents of foul play reviewed in real time in the match and make a decision that could affect the outcome of the match. The citing commissioner may well punish a player but the non-offending team gets no advantage during the match.
"Using the TMO to identify foul play and identify the player guilty of foul play introduces a greater deterrent to foul play and will increase the coach's pressure on players to keep it clean.
"The referee can have incidents reviewed by the TMO for infield play - the forward pass, the knock-on and offside - within two phases of a try's being scored. It is important to stress that a try must have been scored before an incident may be referred. There is no review for judgement calls such as a referee has to make at a tackle or ruck.
"The difficulty with the forward pass for the TMO is having a clear view but what this will do is educate people to look at the passer's hands. It's not where the ball ends up but how it was passed. If players are running at speed a ball will be caught ahead of the place where it was passed. It is about how it was passed, how it left the hands. For the TMO, as for all refereeing decisions, the TMO must base his recommendation on the clear and obvious.
"The TMO's does not make a recommendation off his own bat but when a try is scored the referee is advised to wait before awarding it, giving the TMO a chance to say to the referee that it would be a good idea to refer it. The referee may turn down such a decision, saying: 'I saw it and am happy with it.'
"The TMO makes only a recommendation. The referee makes the decision.
"The trial in the Currie Cup was a good one and the IRB is happy that it carries on for a decent period. Those making the trial will report on their findings and IRB will meet in May 2014 and decide whether or not it will be law for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.
"In the Six Nations this year the expanded protocol will not be used but it will be used in the 2014 Six Nations, after which the decision to keep it or not will be taken
"It is important to realise that in any sport technology does not guarantee perfection - not in tennis, cricket or rugby. It is designed to assist in key moments - such as a red card - and get those right. It is not there to make every decision.
"Rugby is evolving and so is the technology, creating greater opportunities for the game for the viewer and the reviewer."
Asked about the possibility of confusion because of laws' being played differently in different parts of the world, Bray said: "There always will be a difference because of the staggered nature of competitors in Northern and Southern Hemisphere. Trials in the south start on 1 January, in the north on 1 September, and the plan is for a trial to run for the whole competition. Everybody will trial the laws through the whole season, unlike what happened with the ELVs.
"The signs are encouraging for the direction in which the game is moving.