World Rugby have made a swathe of new law changes under the guise of helping to reduce the number of high-impact tackles, encourage reassessment of tackling technique, provide a better spectacle for fans and to avoid impractical multi-phase periods.
Last month the governing body’s ‘50:22 rule’ came into effect, which is expected to lead to a rethink over how teams deploy their kicking game. Jersey Reds’ director of rugby is looking at how it can be used to the Islanders’ advantage in their tier-two campaign, which starts at London Scottish this weekend.
Biljon explained: ‘We’re still getting used to the new laws. We’ve had an opportunity to see them unfold during the pre-season games. We saw one instance in the game against Leicester Tigers where it gives you an opportunity to trial the different options out.
‘It has been said by the authorities that these situations will be few and far between but we’ve actually had two in three games. We were held up in front of the line against Leicester and had a goal-line drop-out, so it just helps us go through those situations in a match environment.
‘We’ve seen opportunities to use the new laws and we’re putting them in practice and seeing how they can fit into the game plan. Those tight margins can make a big difference and present some real opportunities at key moments during the season.’
The adaptation of the laws has been introduced following research conducted by World Rugby, which identified the defensive line as an area that accounted for 50% of injuries and three-quarters of concussions.
But some figures, including former England and Lions international Jeremy Guscott, has spoken publicly of their fears that the new rules, which threaten to neutralize some of a forward pack’s physical advantage, could turn union into a closer resemblance to rugby league.
Hoping the Reds can better their sixth-place finish last season, Biljon added: ‘We had last weekend off to recoup, refresh and we now can’t wait. It’s going to be a very competitive league and I just want us to maximize our potential, do well as a squad and hopefully get an opportunity to be a stand-out team in the Championship.
‘We are now working to make sure we have that last conditioning hit before Scottish, also having the right rest so we’re fresh and any issues such as around the new laws, we’ve identified and addressed.’
World Rugby rule changes for 2021/22
-The 50:22 law
If a player kicks the ball from their own half and it bounces into touch within the opposition’s 22, then the attacking team will receive a lineout. The ball cannot be carried back into a player’s own half to make the kick.
-The new goal-line dropout law
If the ball is kicked into the try area and dotted down by the defending side, instead of a 22m dropout they will now have one from the tryline. It also means that if the ball is held up over the line in the act of scoring, instead of a five-metre scrum to the attacking team, it will now be a turnover and dropout for the defending side.
-New flying wedge law
Sanctions the three-person pre-bound mini-scrum by redefining the flying wedge with the aim of reducing the number of events where the ball carrier and multiple support players are in contact (latched) prior to contact. It protects the tackler, who can be faced with the combined force of three opposing players.
-One player pre-latched rule
Recognises the potential for one-player pre-latching prior to contact, but this player must observe all of the requirements for a first arriving player, particularly the need to stay on their feet with the hope rucks are quicker and cleaner.
-Clean-out and jackal safety law
Introduced a sanction for clean outs which target or drop weight onto the lower limbs to reduce injury risk to the player being cleaned out.