Rugby is a game that is having to adapt to try to keep the attention of viewers. It is why the rules are ever-changing, but this can be pretty confusing, with the 50-22 being the big new rule introduced in the last couple of years.
What are 50-22s? A 50-22 is when a player kicks the ball from inside their own half, out of bounds inside the opposition 22 with the ball bouncing, before leaving play. If they can do this, the kicking team gets to take the throw at the lineout. Before the rule update it would have been the opposing team who would get this throw.
Essentially, if a player is inside their own half and they kick the ball out of play inside the opposition’s 22 then they get the throw at the lineout. Before this rule was put in place, the opposing team would have gotten the ball to throw into the lineout.
There are a few stipulations with this rule. The ball has to bounce before going out of play or the 50-22 does not apply. In fact in that scenario, the opposing team gets the lineout from where the kicker kicked the ball as you are not allowed to kick the ball out on the full when you are outside your own 22.
The other major stipulation which has already caught a few players and commentators out is that if you carry the ball back into your own half then that does not count. Essentially if you are a few metres inside the opposition half, you cannot run back into your own half and attempt a 50-22. The rule will not apply if you try to do this.
Why is it called 50-22?
The name of the rule is a pretty simple one. The rule is that if you kick the ball from inside your own 50-metre line, into the opposition 22 then you will receive the ball. The rule is called this because of where the kick takes place and where it needs to go out of bounds for the rule to imply.
What are the pros of the 50-22 rule?
The 50-22 rule was put in for a very simple reason, to lead to more exciting attacking play. World Rugby understands that attacking needs to be exciting and fast-paced in order for rugby to succeed. We have seen other sports change their rules over the last few years to create more attacking, exciting play as this is what is best for spectators.
The 50-22 certainly creates more attacking opportunities. The primary advantage is that a team who is willing to take the risk with the kick could get themselves more attacking lineouts in their opposition 22. But there are also secondary consequences that create more space.
With teams now needing to cover the wings in the backfield, it will likely turn what used to be 14-man defence lines into 12-man defence lines, with one or two more players having to be dropped into the backfield in order to cover against the 50-22. Doing this will create more space on the wings and therefore more space for attacks.
If teams do not drop the players back then the backfield players have to move wider in order to cover off the 50-22. If these players move wider then it creates more space through the middle for attacking chip kicks and gives the backs more opportunity to be creative in attack as they are playing with more space.
We have seen the rule produce a lot of exciting rugby when a turnover occurs. When a turnover happens, the team that just lost the ball will not be in their defensive positions, so we have seen quite a few forwards attempting the 50-22 kick when the space is available.
What are the cons of the 50-22 rule?
While the 50-22 rule was introduced to increase attacking rugby, there are worries it could do the same. Particularly when the rule was introduced we saw a lot of players and commentators worried that it would actually reduce the amount of exciting attacking rugby.
If teams choose to go to the boot in attack more, then this takes away some of the fast-paced attacking rugby. In the first couple of years of the rule being introduced, we have already seen teams going to the boot more often, which is no surprise considering there is now more reward for an accurate kick.
So while the new rule was to produce higher quality attacking rugby with teams having more space, we may see the quantity of attack, and fast-paced rugby decrease as teams go to the boot more in attack.
There has also been some criticism about how attacking rugby Is trying to make itself. The new rule should lead to higher scores but there is some criticism. Defence is a huge part of rugby and the physicality of the game comes from players having the ball in hand. Encouraging more kicking takes away some of the defending and the physicality which changes the game of rugby away from its roots.
Rugby kicking into touch rules
In rugby, you either kick the ball into touch directly or it bounces before it goes out of bounds. If you are kicking the ball directly out of bounds, it comes with a lot of risk. If you kick the ball straight out of bounds while inside your own 22 then the lineout is given to the other team from where the ball went out.
However, if you kick the ball directly out of play outside of your own 22 then the lineout will still go to the opposition, but it will be taken in line with where the ball was kicked from. It is why players never want to kick the ball directly out from outside of their own 22. This rule also applies if you take the ball back into your own 22.
If you are inside your own 22 then kicking it out of bounds means that the lineout will be taken from where the ball went out of bounds.