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Referees to 'hit the ground running'

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Lynn McConnell     12 Feb 2015     Getty Images

New Zealand Rugby high performance referee manager Rod Hill said the intention was to make the game more attractive for all involved.

Sanzar referees' boss Lyndon Bray had said earlier that there was a need to get better across a couple of areas of the game to improve it as a spectacle.

The referees wanted to 'hit the ground' running from the start of the season to avoid the issues that occurred during the first half of last year's competition.

"We want to build on the last eight weeks of last year's competition which went pretty well," he said.

Attention in the tackle will be paid when a tackler gets off his feet. He is not allowed to roll towards the halfback, impeding his ability to play the ball. The tackler must roll sideways.

And any assisting tackler, who remains on his feet but stays on his side of the ball carrier, can attack the ball once the tackle is completed.

When a ruck collapses and one team wins the contest, and has the ball on their side of the ruck, it remains a ruck so that players cannot step through the middle of a collapsed ruck to disrupt the opposition until the ball has been cleared.

In the scrum contests, after the initial engagement, there will be time for the scrum to settle before the ball is put in. This is aimed at reducing the number of free-kicks for moving over the mark.

Teams will also need to push straight ahead before they try to turn the scrum. They need to 'earn the turn', he said. It was legal to wheel the scrum but too often it turned too early.

In lineouts, the ploy of interfering with the jumper will also be addressed. Only the ball carrier can be 'sacked' once he has touched the ground.

Hill said in recent years there had been a lot more defensive techniques in the lineouts and these disrupted the jumper. There were less clean takes and more destabilising of the lifters.

"We will be more vigilant in the air and on the ground," he said.

In a resulting maul, the defending team can attack the ball carrier 'from the side' so long as a team-mate hasn't already joined to form a maul.

This player forms a maul so the rest of his side need to enter from the back. If the ball is transferred and defensive players are obstructed from getting to the ball carrier there will be a scrum for accidental obstruction.

"Players defending a maul need to make sure they can stop it at the beginning.

"It can be defended, and defended legally, but we just have to make sure they [the defenders] get their timing right.

"In the air the contest is about the ball, not the man," he said.

Coaches have also insisted that there be less management of off-side. If players are off-side, they are off-side and should be treated as such.