Bishop & Sewell

The latest efforts by World Rugby to make the game more accessible will come into effect from 1 July, 2024, writes David Little, a partner in our Corporate and Commercial department who increasingly handles Sports Law cases, too.

Three new law amendments relating to offside from kicks in open play, the options available from a free-kick and removal of the practice of ‘crocodile rolling’ a player away from the tackle/ruck area, are aimed at promoting ball in flow and diversity of attacking options, while supporting player welfare.

Combined with the previously announced reinforcement of current laws, which I referred to here, and a suite of opt-in closed law trials and future law innovation via specialist working groups and new rugby law labs (all approved by the World Rugby Executive Board in March), the law amendments aim to address common areas of fan and player frustration. These include the prevalence of kick tennis, lack of space, slow ball from the caterpillar ruck, use of technology, and set-piece dead time.

The programme is being rolled out with the support of national unions, competitions, universities and players and is central to the sport’s central mission of growth by increasing its audience share.

With a focus on both spectacle and safety and all geared towards the promotion of quick attacking ball, three law amendments will be operational across the game for competitions beginning after 1 July, 2024:

  1. Onside from kicks in open play: In a rewrite of Law 10.7 relating to players being put onside from kicks in open play, it will no longer be possible for a player to be put onside when an opposition player catches the ball and runs five metres, or passes the ball. Laws 10.1 and 10.4 will make clear that offside players must make an attempt to retreat, creating space for the opposition team to play. This should reduce the amount of kick tennis in the game.
  2. Free-kicks: Under Law 20.3, it will no longer be possible to choose a scrum from a free-kick. Free-kicks must either be tapped or kicked to encourage more ball in flow.
  3. Banning the ‘crocodile roll’: The action of rolling/twisting/pulling of a player on their feet in the tackle area (the ‘crocodile roll’) will be outlawed, sanctioned by a penalty.

View the law details here.

However, it is the trialling of some additional measures which could find their way into mainstream rugby next season which are perhaps the most interesting.

Revised on- and off-field sanctions process increasing simplicity, consistency and fan understanding. This features the combination of strong automatic off-field red card sanctions and the ability to replace a red-carded player after 20 minutes.

Introduction of the 30-second shot clock for scrum and lineout setting and a maximum of 60 seconds for conversions [a reduction of 30 seconds] aligning with the time permitted for penalty kicks at goal.

I’m not one to argue with World Rugby Chairman, Sir Bill Beaumont when he says, “I believe that the law amendments and suite of closed trials will add to the entertainment factor. As with all trials, we will comprehensively review their effectiveness and take feedback from across the game. The revised red card sanction process is such an example, and it is important that we trial, assess and make definitive decisions based on data and feedback.”

If the new game can iron out the endless kicking then I for one would confer a second knighthood on Sir Bill.


Contact our Sports Law and Corporate & Commercial Solicitor

David Little is a Partner at Bishop & Sewell in our expert Corporate & Commercial team. If you would like to contact him, please quote Ref CB475 on either 07968 027343 or, 020 7631 4141 or email:

The above is accurate as at 31 May 2024. The information above may be subject to change.

The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Category: Blog, News | Date: 31st May 2024

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