— Published 18 May 2022

Putting an end to false water carriers

World Rugby is going on the offensive. The Dublin-based international body has announced its decision to experiment with a new rule designed to limit access to the pitch for non-playing personnel. In other words, for coaches, to prevent them from taking advantage of breaks in the game, in particular to hydrate themselves, to talk to players and to give instructions. The experiment is due to start on 1 July. It will cover all international matches. Officially, the trial will be used to improve the “fluidity” of matches by reducing unnecessary stoppages in play, without compromising the health of the players. “We are taking concrete action to improve the flow of rugby matches, said Mark Harrington, World Rugby’s head of player protection. This will be the first time teams on the field of play could be sanctioned (over) the actions of those not directly involved in the contest.” Under the proposed new rules, teams will be allowed to have up to two water carriers, but they cannot be members of the technical staff. They will only be allowed on the pitch twice per half, at points agreed with the match officials, only during a stoppage in play or after a try. A penalty will be awarded to the opposing team if the support staff attempt to “play or touch the ball while it is in play” or if they approach or address the officials, unless they are medical staff. World Rugby’s decision comes after controversy over South Africa’s director of rugby, Rassie Erasmus, overstepping his role as water boy to give advice to players during the Springboks’ Test series against the British and Irish Lions last year.