2024 Game Innovations

New Zealand Rugby (NZR) is focused on creating a safer game that participants love to play.

Four game innovations (EDSLVs) will be trialed for the 2024 and 2025 community rugby seasons, aimed at improving player safety and flow of the game.

Three of these game innovations were developed by NZR through a series of successful trials in Provincial Union competitions throughout the 2022 season, following an in-depth assessment which took into consideration game footage, key metrics and participant feedback. 

2024 community rugby game innovations

Reduced tackle height to below the sternum targeting the belly area for all community rugby grades

Game innovation: The first tackler must tackle below the sternum and target the belly area. The second tackler can legally tackle below the shoulders in accordance with current rugby law.

Key stats from the 2023 season:

  • In teenage boys’ 1st XV matches observed, nearly 90% of all tackles involved only 1 tackler.​
  • 78% of first tackles were below the sternum in senior men’s rugby.​
  • 72% of first tackles were below the sternum in senior women’s rugby.
  • 90% of first tackles were below the sternum in premier 1st XV school rugby.
  • 61% of participants thought the lower tackle height was either significantly safer or somewhat safer for the first tackler.​
  • 72% of participants agreed that the lower tackle height was safer for the ball carrier.
  • 89% of all participants understood the reason for the tackle below the sternum law.​
  • In premier men's games, offloads increased by around 65% compared to similar games analysed in 2022.

Halfback offside at scrum for all community rugby grades

Game innovation: The halfback of the team not in possession must remain 1 metre from the scrum and may not advance past the tunnel until the scrum has ended. If they opt to stay in a position in front of their Number-8's feet, they must stay within 1m of scrum.

After a successful trial across non-premier senior and teenage rugby in 2022, restrictions around the halfback at scrums will now be extended to include all grades of community rugby, including premier senior club and First XV school rugby.

Key stats from the 2023 season:

  • Over 95% of participants surveyed supported the positive impact on attacking play through quicker, cleaner ball.
  • Only 2% of all scrums resulted in a handling error.​

Maximum 1.5 metre scrum push for all community rugby, excluding senior premier club rugby grades

Game innovation: The maximum push of any scrum is limited to 1.5 metres, unless the scrum is within 5 metres of the goal line.

Senior club rugby grades (except for grades designated as premier) will continue trialling a maximum scrum push of 1.5 metres in 2023, with the review results indicating this innovation required more time to establish if the change had improved player safety outcomes.

Please note: Small Blacks rugby at U12 and U13s is already limited to a maximum 0.5 metre scrum push and Teenage rugby is also limited to a maximum 1.5 metre scrum push.

Key stats from the 2023 season:

  • 68% of community non-premier rugby participants surveyed perceive restricted scrums as safer.​
  • 84% said the law reduces the opportunity to scrum for penalties. ​
  • 70% felt the ball was not being held in the scrum as long this season and therefore in play longer.​
  • 60% of participants said they felt it increased the opportunity for positive play.

Red card replacement

Game innovation: If a player receives a Red Card, they may be replaced after 20 minutes by another player. If a player receives a second Yellow Card which equates to an automatic Red Card, after a furhter 20 minutes, the Red Carded player can be replaced.

Visit www.rugbytoolbox.co.nz for more information about these changes