- Jun 25, 2010
World Rugby discreetly changes offside rule which cost England win against All Blacks
The rule which helped the All Blacks cling on for victory against England last November has been discreetly revised by World Rugby.
Controversy erupted after New Zealand won that test 16-15 at Twickenham, as the hosts had a late try to Sam Underhill ruled out due to Courtney Lawes being ruled offside in charging down a TJ Perenara box kick.
The governing body isn't meant to amend laws in a World Cup year, but described the rewording of this one as instead a "revision", as they look to avoid any sort of repeat confusion.
The crucial tweaking, not formally announced by World Rugby, is that the offside line at a ruck will now not be based on positioning of the "hindmost foot", but rather the "hindmost point of any player from either team", for instance an arm or a head.
When referee Jerome Garces, via TMO Marius Jonker, ruled out Underhill's try, many were left split over the decision.
For starters, there was a grey area about whether it was actually a tackle or a ruck, then if it was considered the latter the law stated the offside line ran "through the ruck participants' hindmost foot", while the explanation had it being "the hindmost foot of the player of the same team".
Under the first definition, the line would have been set by the foot of All Blacks prop Ofa Tuungafasi, and showed Lawes marginally offside. But under the second, Lawes could have been considered onside, because he was behind team-mate George Ford, who was on the ground after making the tackle.
With World Rugby wanting offside to be a black and white decision, chief executive Brett Gosper proposed the rule tweak following the end-of-year internationals.
John Jeffrey, the chairman of the World Rugby committee which oversees the laws, told The Times:
"The chief executive came to the rugby committee and said, 'Can we look for a clarification in law?' It was trying to seek clarity of 'what is offside? What is the back foot of the ruck? Is it the foot or is it the hindmost part?' We had to take the word foot out."
The changes are in place in readiness for the Six Nations, which kicks off next weekend.