World Rugby secretly changes offside rule

Courtney Lawes (Getty Images)
Courtney Lawes (Getty Images)

Cape Town - The rule which helped the All Blacks to hang on for victory against England last November has been secretly revised by World Rugby.

According to the Stuff website, World Rugby is not supposed to amend laws in a Rugby World Cup year, but described the rewording of this one as a "revision" instead, as they look to avoid similar confusion in future.

It followed the controversy of last year's Test at Twickenham when England had a late try ruled out.

The All Blacks were leading 16-15 when, with just four minutes to go, scrumhalf TJ Perenara had a kick charged down by England lock Courtney Lawes. England flank Sam Underhill collected the ball and "scored" in the corner as the home crowd exploded after what they thought would be a famous victory.

However, South African television match official (TMO) Marius Jonker ruled out the try due to Lawes having been offside at the ruck.

This crucial tweaking of the law, not formally announced by World Rugby, is that the offside line at a ruck will now not be based on positioning of the "hindmost foot", but rather the "hindmost point of any player from either team", for instance an arm or a head.

According to the new rule change, Lawes would not have been offside because he was behind his team-mate George Ford, who was on the ground after executing a tackle.

John Jeffrey, the chairperson of the World Rugby committee which oversees the laws, told The Times that the change came about after a request from World Rugby CEO Brett Gosper.

"The chief executive came to the rugby committee and said, 'Can we look for a clarification in law?' It was trying to seek clarity of 'what is offside? What is the back foot of the ruck? Is it the foot or is it the hindmost part?' We had to take the word foot out."

ALSO READ: TMO call against England was incorrect - Jonathan Kaplan

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