Television match officials are set to be handed increased powers and the substitutes bench increased to eight players as part of an International Rugby Board-sanctioned trial of law amendments.
Also included in the trial is a rule declaring that the ball must be used within five seconds of it being made available at the back of a ruck, with a warning from the referee, while conversions must be completed within 90 seconds from the time that a try has been awarded.
The trial was approved by the IRB at its annual meeting in Dublin overnight (NZT), and will kick in at the start of the next season in each hemisphere (August 2012 in the north and January 2013 in the south), though some aspects will be tested this year's November internationals.
The amendments will apply to both international and domestic competition.
The IRB claimed their had been an ``extensive process of consultation and evaluation'', culminating with recent trials at playing environments in Cambridge and Stellenbosch.
Unlike previous amendments, the process of selection, monitoring and evaluation has been steered by an independent group, comprising technical representatives from each of the 10 tier one nations.
The five law amendments to be trialled globally are:-
- the ball has to be used within five seconds of it being made available at the back of a ruck with a warning from the referee to use it. Sanction = scrum.
- for a quick throw in, the player may be anywhere outside the field of play between the line of touch and the players goal line.
- when the ball goes into touch from a knock-on, the non-offending team will be offered the choice of a lineout at the point the ball crossed the touch line, or a scrum at the place of the knock-on.
- A team awarded a penalty or a free kick at a lineout may choose a further lineout, they throw in. This is in addition to the scrum option.
- A conversion kick must be completed within 90 seconds from the time that a try has been awarded.
In addition to the global trials, the IRB approved three specific additional trials:-
- a trial to extend the jurisdiction of the TMO to incidents within the field of play that have led to the scoring of a try, and foul play in the field of play, to take place at an appropriate elite competition in order that a protocol can be developed for the November Tests.
- a trial has been sanctioned for the November Test window permitting international teams to nominate up to eight replacements in the match day squads, but the additional player must be a qualified front rower.
- an amendment to enable sevens teams to nominate up to five replacements/substitutes during a match, from June this year.
There will also be further consideration by a specialist ``scrum steering group'' to amend the engagement sequence at scrum time.
``We have a collective responsibility to ensure that the game is as enjoyable to play, officiate and watch as possible at every level while player welfare is of paramount importance,'' said IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset.
``The global trials are not fait accompli. It is essential at the end of the global trial process that decisions made are in the best interest of rugby worldwide.''