Unpacking Rugby Laws: Insights from Referee Nigel Owens

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Owens said in his column on walesonline.co.uk that the two incredible quarterfinal games between the All Blacks and Ireland and South Africa and France showed that playing rugby of a high calibre was possible under the laws.

"If it's possible for games of that calibre to be played under the current laws, then there can't be any major problem with them.

"But obviously not every game is played at that standard of discipline or with such positivity, and so there are a number of other things that need to be looked at over the coming months and years."

One was tackle height, but Owens admitted he didn't have the answer. He didn't think the 50:22 had achieved the decluttering of the midfield by forcing teams to drop back players to cover the kick, but it hadn't been a negative move.

However, goalline dropouts had not succeeded. Designed to reduce the number of pick-and-goes and to cause more ball movement through backlines, teams were still picking and going, and it had produced negative play in defending sides getting under the ball and holding it up. He said the law should be changed.

It would be a chance to have a five-metre scrum to return more scrums to the game.

Owens said too many scrums were not being refereed. Too often, play was carried on after scrums had gone down instead of the causes of their collapse being dealt with, resulting in the same issues occurring repeatedly.

He was also concerned with the contact area that needed to be solid.

"You can't deliberately collapse a ruck, and players arriving at the ruck should be arriving on their feet and not diving on them...If we get more players on their feet contesting the ruck, then we have more space in midfield for the players to attack.

"This will also reduce the amount of dangerous clearouts around the dead ruck areas, when piles of bodies are on the ground."

Owen said the 'boring and endless box kicks from long ruck set-ups' also needed to be addressed. He would reduce the time to kick to three seconds.

There also needed to be better feeding of the ball to scrums by halfbacks. He said he was as guilty as anyone in letting unstraight feeds to scrums occur.

But it had got beyond a job where halfbacks might as well put the ball straight under the No8's feet.


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