World Rugby has announced several new measures aimed at speeding up the flow of the game, including a strict time limit for kicking penalties and conversions.
The law tweaks come into effect from 1 January and are intended to reduce time wasting by players, time spent consulting the TMO, and also state that water carriers are permitted to enter the field only after a try. The most notable change may prove to be a new countdown clock for kickers.
Kickers must take a conversion within 90 seconds of a try being scored, while a penalty must be kicked within 60. Competitions such as the Six Nations will be encouraged to introduce a “shot clock” to help enforce the law, and the time limit will apply “even if the ball rolls over and has to be placed again”.
A World Rugby statement said: “The guidelines, which are designed to assist match officials, players and coaches and to enhance fan experience are part of a drive by the international federation to speed up the game and reflect key outcomes of the Shape of the Game conference in November.”
World Rugby has also sought to clarify what constitutes a deliberate knock-on, stating: “It is not an intentional knock-on if, in the act of trying to catch the ball, the player knocks on provided that there was a reasonable expectation that the player could gain possession.”
The law changes also include a focus on players supporting their own body weight at rucks and mauls. The changes are another item for the in-tray of England’s new head coach, Steve Borthwick, who said he plans to consider “every single player” in attempting to build a team capable of winning the Six Nations and the World Cup.
His commitment to taking a fresh look at selection will raise the hopes of a number of players ignored or discarded during Eddie Jones’s tenure. Borthwick was appointed on Monday, with time running short to prepare for England’s Six Nations opener against Scotland on 4 February.
“What I am going to do is look at every single player and look at how we make this squad the best England squad we can possibly make right now,” Borthwick said. “I promise you, I am going to be looking at every single player.”
The Bath back-rower Ted Hill will be among those hoping to force their way into contention while the Leicester prop, Dan Cole, is another candidate in light of the new coach’s aim of strengthening England’s set-piece.
The 43-year-old Borthwick also praised the Premiership as a proving ground for Test talent. “I think it is a really high standard,” he said. “My job is to get selection right, and to give the players a real clear plan.”
Borthwick also stressed his belief in establishing combinations. “You [need to] understand where the players are at, understanding the combinations and the cohesion,” Borthwick said. “Effectively, building the team … understanding the importance and seeing the importance of cohesion and partnerships, that’s important.”