Why rugby is bidding farewell to Dupont's Law and the crocodile roll

France captain and scrum-half Antoine Dupont was the first to exploit a loophole which led to passages of 'kick tennis'. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)France captain and scrum-half Antoine Dupont was the first to exploit a loophole which led to passages of 'kick tennis'. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
France captain and scrum-half Antoine Dupont was the first to exploit a loophole which led to passages of 'kick tennis'. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)
20-minute red cards to be trialled as a series of rule changes are brought in

World Rugby has announced three law changes that will come into effect from July 1 that the governing body hopes will increase entertainment and attract a new and younger audience to the sport.

The new amendments include the closing of the loophole known as “Dupont’s Law”, named after the France captain who is credited with first exploiting it. It led to passages of borning “kick tennis” of the type seen during this year’s Scotland-France Six Nations match which was booed by the Murrayfield the crowd.

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Gregor Townsend, the Scotland coach, also criticised the loophole which came about because the current law states that players in front of the kicker are only adjudged to be onside once the kick receiver has passed the ball or moved five metres with it. It has led to groups of players standing inactive in the middle of the pitch as the ball is kicked back and forth.

World Rugby has now attempted to put an end to it by rewriting Law 10.7 and stated: “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.”

The second law amendment concerns free-kicks and states that it will no longer be possible to choose a scrum from a free-kick. From July 1, free-kicks must either be tapped or kicked. The third law change will see the overdue banning of the so-called ‘crocodile roll’, a dangerous aspect of the game World Rugby describes as “the action of rolling/twisting/pulling of a player on their feet in the tackle area”. Such behaviour has led to serious leg injuries and will be outlawed from July 1 and sanctioned by a penalty.

The law amendments are part of World Rugby’s wider action plan to address concerns over slow play and negative tactics. The aim is to improve the spectacle and in turn attract new followers by “enhancing ball in flow, reducing stoppages and increasing welfare outcomes”.

“The plan seeks to increase rugby’s accessibility and relevance among a broader, younger fanbase by embracing on-field innovation and reimagined presentation of the sport with compelling storytelling,” said the governing body.

World Rugby is also conducting six closed law trials this summer at the World Rugby U20 Championship, U20 World Trophy (being hosted in Edinburgh) and Pacific Nations Cup.

Most controversially, these trials include ‘20‑minute red cards’ which allow a team to bring on a replacement for a player who has been sent off after 20 minutes have elapsed. The aim is to prevent matches being ruined as a spectacle by a red card but critics have warned that diluting a red card's impact could endanger players’ safety.

There will also be a trial to streamline the red card sanction process. It means that ‘foul play’ will be met with an automatic two-week ban, while ‘aggravated foul play’ will mean a four-week ban.

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Other laws being trialled include the introduction of a 30-second shot clock for scrum and lineout setting; 60 seconds for conversions (a reduction of 30 seconds); more protection of the nine at the base of the scrum, ruck and at the maul; ability to mark the ball inside the 22-metre line from a restart; playing of the ball after a maul has been stopped once, not twice; playing on at a lineout if ball not thrown straight but only if lineout is uncontested.

A contentious idea to reduce the tackle height in the elite game is one of a number of proposals which will be referred to specialist working groups with the aim of reporting back by November 2024. Also included in this ‘future innovations’ bracket are reviews of ‘jackaling’, seen by many as dangerous, TMO protocol and replacement numbers.



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