World Rugby laws: ‘Shot clock’ timer introduced for penalties and scrums as officials encouraged to cut down on time-wasting

World Rugby have set their stall out to increase the speed of the game, which is aimed at cutting out time-wasting and improving the on-field product.

Many have called for changes to attract more fans to the sport, as well as help officials, coaches and players, and the governing body hopes these simple but effective measures will do the trick.

They will come into effect on January 1, 2023 and will be implemented in all competitions across the globe.

The law alterations

  • Law 8.8d Conversion: (The kicker) takes the kick within 90 seconds (playing time) from the time the try was awarded, even if the ball rolls over and has to be placed again. Sanction: Kick is disallowed.
  • Law 8.21 Penalty Kick: The kick must be taken within 60 seconds (playing time) from the time the team indicated their intention to do so, even if the ball rolls over and has to be placed again. Sanction: Kick is disallowed, and a scrum is awarded.
  • Law 9.7d: A player must not waste time. Sanction Free Kick
  • Law 18.12 Lineout: Teams form the lineout without delay. Sanction: Free-kick.
  • Law 19.4 Scrum: Teams must be ready to form the scrum within 30 seconds of the mark being made. Sanction: Free-kick.

In regards to the shot clock, World Rugby director of rugby Phil Davies said: “World Rugby, member unions and competitions will work with broadcasters and match hosts to implement on-screen (stadia and broadcast) shot clocks for penalties and conversions to ensure referees, players and fans can view the countdown, mirroring what happens in the LNR (French leagues) and Sevens.”

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There will also be a change to the TMO procedure as they attempt to reduce the amount of time it takes to reach decisions.

“There was excellent debate at the Shape of the Game conference on this topic, including leading match officials, coaches and player representatives. It was agreed that reviews can often take too long, suggesting the offence being reviewed is not clear and obvious,” Davies said.

“While we can always enhance the technology interaction to speed up the process, the match official teams – led by the referee – should attempt to make speedier decisions and limit replays where not necessary.”

Moving in the right direction

World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont added: “As a sport, a movement and a family, we must always challenge ourselves to be better. That means taking time to consider what fans and players want the future of our sport to be, a future where more people want to play and support the game, where injury risk is reducing and where all involved in the game have their say.

“These law application guidelines are a step on the road to reimagining our sport and come directly from the Shape of the Game conference in London in November, attended by players, coaches, referees, union CEOs and competition owners. By working together, we can achieve positive outcomes.

“I would like to thank all for their contributions and the match officials specifically for implementing the directives and we look forward to seeing the results.”

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