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By ARU Media Unit
Let's take a look at dealing with players at kicks in general play. You may have noticed an increase in penalties for offside at kicks throughout the Super 14 season and in recent Test Matches. There has been a focus from the IRB and SANZAR to clean up this area of the game. Why you might be asking?
For those of you who follow rugby league you will observe that at the end of each set of 6 a player kicks the ball down field and all his team mates march off after it. They work together and form a defensive wall 10m from the player who is catching the kick. This player fields the kick and invariably crashes it up into the defence and so begins the next set of 6. Over time rugby union has adopted a similar defensive approach, the chasers build a line (or wall) and when the opposition receive the ball the player has little or no options. With the conservative tactics employed by most teams these days the player generally kicks the ball back to the opposition at which his team set up and advances their own defensive wall. Hence games end up with some pretty innocuous kicking or ‘aerial ping pong’ as some like to call it.
The changes this season have been brought about to avoid this aimless kicking by forcing players in front of the kicker to stand still (stop) or retire until put onside by the kicker or an onside teammate. This change improves the time and space for the receiving player/s. This increased time and space creates more room for players to counter attack and opens up more attacking options. It also reduces the amount of kicking.
Let’s look at an overview of Law relating to offside in general play when the ball is kicked and how the referee should manage players in front of the kicker.
Offside in General Play (Law - 11.1)
How should the referee manage players in front of the kicker at a kick down field (long kick)?
Offside under the 10m Law (Law - 11.4)
How should the referee manage players in front of the kicker who are inside the 10m for example a ‘box kick’ or an ‘up and under’?
What does all this mean and how should it be applied to the game?
Strong application of players offside at kicks has improved the time and space for teams to counter attack as evidence throughout the opening rounds of the 2011 Super Rugby season. A vigilant approach by referees to offside players can certainly have a positive outcome and contribute to open attacking rugby, something all spectators enjoy.