Super Rugby Pacific are aiming to tweak the offside law to avoid the static kicking exchanges that have blighted games in the Premiership and the Six Nations recently and to promote running from the back-field.
Two separate clauses in law 10.7, which have become known as the ‘Dupont Law’ after the France scrum-half Antoine Dupont popularised the ploy in Test matches, allow players to advance from offside positions after an opponent has caught a kick and either moved five metres or passed the ball.
This has brought about jarring situations during matches where players have camped in the middle of the pitch, a 12-kick rally during the recent West Country derby between Gloucester and Bath being a prime example. On Saturday at Murrayfield, Scotland and France engaged in a similar back-and-forth. Kickers were standing stock-still in the back-field and dummying passes so as not to allow opponents to advance.
Bath very in tune with the Dupont loophole that states you can advance from an offside position once a catcher has travelled five metres.
When Will Muir finally does get a charge-down, though, Gloucester benefit from the ricochet.
Please can we close the loophole? It's trash. pic.twitter.com/PZAao1Spvk
— Charlie Morgan (@CharlieFelix) January 7, 2024
Super Rugby Pacific, which features franchises from Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, begins on Feb 23, want to do away with these exchanges and will move to ensure that players must be put onside by a kicker running past them. Telegraph Sport understands that World Rugby is yet to ratify any change, but the competition’s chair, Kevin Molloy, explained that feedback from fans, coaches and players had encouraged the development.
“We want to create a game that’s exciting for our fans and enjoyable for our players,” he said. “Part of that is seeing our players running the ball rather than trading multiple kicks in a battle for territory. We’re listening to our fans and with the full support of New Zealand Rugby, Rugby Australia, and our coaches we’ve responded with a small change we think could make a big difference.”
“Fans have been vocal in recent times about teams exploiting a loophole that’s seen large number of players standing still while kicks go over their heads in what some people have called kick tennis,” Molloy added. “We don’t believe that’s the spectacle our fans want to see in Super Rugby Pacific. We want to open up the opportunity for teams to counterattack with the ball in hand and we’re confident this tweak to the law will encourage that trend and encourage exciting, attacking rugby.”
Goal-line drop-outs have been among the laws trialled in Super Rugby before being rolled out worldwide. Other gimmicks, such as 20-minute red cards and captain’s challenges, have not been adopted in other tournaments.