Law variations inspire record scores in Super Rugby Pacific

Rugby Au

Time spent on stoppages in Harvey Norman Super Rugby Pacific has been dramatically reduced, with the introduction of a raft of law variations inspiring a more fluid and entertaining spectacle for fans in 2023.

Data from the first four rounds of the 2023 season shows that on average more than six minutes of ‘dead time’ has been removed from each game, with the average match duration reduced from 98 minutes to 91 minutes and 46 seconds.

Major time savings have been made through the introduction of the off-field Yellow Card review process, more efficient referee-player interactions and faster resumption of play following tries.

The law variations have also seen the average points scored per match reach 61 – the highest in the 27-year history of Super Rugby.

Comparing 2022 season averages to the first four rounds of 2023:

  • Time taken to restart play after a try has reduced from 1min 53s to 52s
  • Time taken for player substitutions each game has reduced from 1min 12s to 29s
  • Time taken managing on-field warnings and cards has reduced from 1min 46s to 53s
  • Total match duration from kick off to final whistle has reduced from 98min to 91min 46s
  • Average points per match have increased from 53 points to 61 points

“We are thrilled to see the data bearing out the objectives of the law variations introduced for the 2023 season,” Super Rugby Pacific Tournament Director Matt Barlow said.

“Our goal was to create a more fluid spectacle for fans, both at ground and for those watching on television, and a faster and more enjoyable game for players, and we believe we have achieved that over the opening stages of the season.

“Specifically, we wanted to address stoppage time, particularly for reviewing foul play. Taking the TMO review process off-field, and off-screen, has made a significant impact for fans and players. Our Match Officials have also done a great job enforcing time limits on goal kicks, scrums, lineouts, rucks and restarts after tries. It all adds up.”

Referees have successfully enforced 90-second time limits on conversions, 60 seconds for penalty kicks, 30 seconds for scrums and lineouts to be set, and five seconds for the ball to be used at rucks, while TMOs have only interrupted play for serious, clear and obvious incidents of foul play.

“Players and coaches are telling us the reduction in stoppage time has made the game more demanding from a physical perspective. We’ve seen high-scoring, fluid and entertaining matches and that’s a credit to the positive mindset with which our teams want to play,” Barlow said.

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