New interpretation of the tackle law improving attacking rugby
ACT Brumbies

Attack is back?

Attack is back?

Watching the first 20 minutes of the Force vs Reds trial match on Friday, it was clear the effect the new interpretation of the tackle laws could have on attacking rugby this season. It was great to see a team taking initiative, playing attacking rugby, and being rewarded for it.

The task for the Force was made easier with an experimental Reds backrow, however the intent of the referee to reward the attacking team where possible was clear, but was it fair?

Who cares – after some of the shit we had to sit through last year, I would rather see a contest weighted in favour of the attacking team than one that favoured the defending team any day.

Brumbies captain, Stephen Hoiles, summed up the view of many with his assessment that attacking rugby had been neglected and disadvantaged for too long.

“I think the new interpretations which say the tackler has to release the tackled player is good, because it gives the attacking team the opportunity to play the ball.

”You shouldn’t penalise a guy who’s made a good run because there’s been a tackler from behind drag him down and kept his body on him the whole time. It makes sense.”

As always, with the new of interpretations of the laws, there is the risk of unintended consequences. The consequence in this case could well be the death of breakdown turnover – maybe that’s the real reason George pulled the pin!

Last year the decision to allow defending teams a greater chance to affect turnovers was seen as a way of making a more free-flowing game. But far from promoting turnover counter-attack based play, the Boks exploited this change with brutal simplicity and the unintended consequence was the kick-fest.

Even the Northern Hemisphere have tweaked their interpretation of the tackle law in following much the same line as SANZAR by bringing down the edict that the tackled player must be released by the tackler thus allowing him to place the ball back a full arms length away from the defenders. This interpretation seemed to have had the desired outcome with the England vs Wales game being the most entertaining in years and yeilding five tries .

Speaking after his side was well and truly pantsed by the Force at the tackle contest, Reds coach Ewen McKenzie, highlighted the difference the new interpretation had made.

“With the new laws, the way they are interpreting it, you can’t really get the ball at the breakdown anymore, so the only opportunity is to compete at set piece. It is definitely a different game, the tackle area.

“You only saw two penalties against the attacking team. It gives a lot more confidence to attack and you could see in the game, you get a lot of momentum and a lot of phases to play around with so you’ve already seen a massive shift in the game, and that’s good.”

With the interpretation being that the tackler has to immediately release the tackled player and roll away from the contest, it will be interesting to see what innovations coaches and teams come up with to even the contest.

It would appear that if attempting a to snaffle the ball at the ruck becomes so fraught, teams probably will not bother in most cases. Instead of committing numbers to rucks, it would make more sense for the defending team to concede and simply add those players to the defensive line wouldn’t it?

Perhaps the most novel approach so far comes from South Africa, where the Stormers’ players have taken to clapping their hands in an effort to show they have released the tackled player before attempting the steal…weird huh?

If you’re attempting a steal and you know it, clap you’re hands…I can’t see it catching on.

  • Seb V

    i think the clapping is smart, Might sound stupid but it would actually make it easier for the ref. Hell they deserve a clap for that.

    • Newb

      i agree. i think it’s clever.

  • Seb V

    Anyone got Highlights of the Reds Vs Force trial? or The Tahs Brumbies?

  • I just love the phrase “referee’s interpretation”. This has been the law at the tackle all along. The ‘tackler’ must release the ‘ball-carrier’ immediately. The ‘ball-carrier’ must then “push, place or pass the ball, without delay”. The ‘tackler’ is not permitted to play the ball, until he has regained his feet.
    I wonder if there are any other laws which the referees have decided to play! Just let us know!

  • CanadianRugby

    Just so I’m clear, the new interpretations don’t change any non-tacklers coming in and ripping the ball away right? If this is true wouldn’t that make players like Smith, Pocock etc… more valuable because they can get to the bottom of rucks even if they aren’t the first tackler.

    Maybe the unintended consequence could be forcing teams to commit more players in order to turn a ball over, thus giving more room to the attacking team?

    Or I could be totally wrong. It happened once before….

    • Juan Cote

      This is where the problem now presents itself. This change in interpretation now makes it hard to be totally sure.

      The NH interpretation seems to be that the tackled player has to be given a chance to place the ball before it can be attacked.

      The SANZAR interpretation has more to do with tacklers releasing the tackled player immediately they go to ground.

      So long as you aren’t part of the tackle, and on your feet, presumably you are fine to attempt a pilfer.

      But if you are part of the tackle, and remain on your feet, then you must release the tackled player, who would be on the ground, before attempting the steal….see, simple isn’t it?!?!

  • Seb V

    I can see a situation where a player like george smith will actually sit behind his team mate (the tackler)and instead of helping out in the tackle have faith that the team mate will make the tackle and then Smith will pounce on the ball. Can still win the ball no probs. Just have to be smart like king george always is and position yourself right, and have the right timing. If players do this we could see more 1 vs 1 tackles which is always good fun to watch and prob would lead to more tackles broken too cos the secondary tackler will delay getting involved.

  • Robson

    If defending teams don’t commit players to the breakdown they leave themselves open to opposing forwards bullrushing the tackle ball area and shoving a new attack right up the middle with a short passing game. It would produce serious problems for a defending side because their defensive line would then be behind the line of attack.

    I like these rule interpretations and I’m looking forward to seeing how Prince Richie modifies them to suit himself i.e. remodels his cheating style.

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