2023 Game Innovations

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

Three game innovations (EDSLVs) will be trialed in the 2023 community rugby season, aimed at improving player safety and flow of the game.

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. 

2023 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.

Feedback from community grades trialling the reduced tackle height in the 2022 season found that 78% of participants believed it improved the tackler’s safety, 72% thought there were more opportunities for offloads and 73% felt it made the game faster.

Defensive 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.

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

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.

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

FAQs

Why is NZR making changes to the community game?

We are focused on creating a game that players, coaches and referees love to play. Feedback from community rugby participants has suggested that changes should be made to the tackle and breakdown, as well as a focus on player safety. The 2023 community rugby innovations are supported by the 26 Provincial Unions and aim to improve player safety, flow of the game, and keep the ball in play more.

Improving the participant’s experience is key to ensuring that rugby remains a safe, relevant, and viable offering for the communities that play, coach, manage, referee, and support the game - and is a vital part of NZR's Participation Framework.

How were the game innovations developed?

The 2023 community rugby game innovations were developed through a series of successful trials in Provincial Union competitions throughout the 2022 season. The game innovations are supported by New Zealand’s 26 Provincial Unions.

When will the game innovations be reviewed?

The game innovations will be reviewed at the conclusion of the 2023 season to determine if there is a need to change or implement them permanently as Domestic Safety Law Variations (DSLVs). The review will take into consideration game footage, key metrics, and participant feedback.

How does NZR know if the game innovations are working?

We are focused on making sure that decisions around player safety are based on research and evidence. To evaluate the 2022 game innovations, surveys were sent to players, referees and coaches, and matches were filmed and analysed. The 2023 game innovations will be reviewed in a similar way. 

What grades will be playing under the new tackle height trial?

All community rugby grades will play under the new tackle height trial in 2023. These grades including senior premier club and school First XV grades.

Why is NZR reducing the tackle height even further?

Community rugby participants have told us that they want to see improvements made to the tackle and at breakdown. Feedback from community grades trialling the reduced tackle height in the 2022 season found that 78% of participants believed it improved the tackler’s safety, 72% thought there were more opportunities for offloads, and 73% felt it made the game faster.

How can players know where the sternum area is when tackling?

Defenders should target the belly area of the ball carrier when making a tackle, as this area of the body is below the sternum. The second tackler can legally tackle below the shoulders in accordance with current rugby law.

When can we see game innovations for the breakdown area?

We will be seeking feedback from participants on the breakdown area throughout the 2023 season and looking to implement trials in 2024.

Why is the high ball contest no longer being trialled in teenage rugby?

In the 2022 season, players were required to remain grounded when catching high balls in all teenage rugby below First XV. Research on this trial found that kicking high balls in teenage rugby was not common. Approximately, 10% to 15% of all kicks in general play were high balls, with only 3% resulted in genuine high ball contests. Current rugby law sufficiently protects players catching or contesting high balls. It is recommended that coaches continue to focus on skills required for aerial contests to better prepare players moving into levels where they are more prevalent.

How can I provide feedback on the 2023 community rugby game innovations?

If you have any feedback, please send us an email at participation@nzrugby.co.nz.