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Referees to tidy up fringe areas in ITM Cup

Referees will be using the ITM Cup to smarten up some of the rough edges that have crept into the game.

Referee Nick Briant outlined the areas at the official launch of the series in Auckland on Thursday.

Players are going to be required to be behind the kicker at restarts at halfway and the 22m line.

Penalties and free kicks are to be taken on, or behind, the mark which will be an end to kickers using the mark as an approximate target to begin their run to kick the ball.

Injury stoppages will be confined to serious injuries, or when a prop is unable to take his place in the front row at a scrum.

Delays at scrums and lineouts will also be a target. Sides will have 30 seconds to form up.

So far as scrummaging is concerned Briant said halfbacks would need to be square on to the scrum in order to feed the ball in straight. Scrums will have to be stable before the referee makes the next call in the three-call sequence. There will be no undue delay of the feed allowed.

Players will be expected to contribute through their attitudes to minimise the resetting of scrums. When the scrums become stationary the ball will have to be played immediately.

In the transfer from lineouts to mauls the referees will be looking to ensure a contest can take place.

The defenders may hold their ground and choose not to engage the maul. If they do this they will play on.

Similarly if the jumper still has the ball and the lifters are beside him, they can move forward together with no problem and no obstruction.

Briant added: "If the jumper lands, and the ball is transferred back from the jumper prior to the defenders engaging, it is potential obstruction.

"It becomes obstruction when the defenders engage. The referee will first call 'Use it' and should the team not use it immediately then accidental off-side, scrum defenders' ball will be called."

Should the lifters be in front of the jumper when he lands this is obstruction which will be penalised when the defenders engage.

At the breakdown the onus will be on players of both teams who are off their feet to not attempt to play. Tacklers must roll clear immediately to provide clear access to the ball to allow a contest between players staying on their feet.

Halfbacks will not be interfered with at rucks and mauls. The ball will be out of the ruck when the halfback lifts the ball, not when he touches it.

There will also be emphasis on providing space for the game to operate with both backlines five metres back from scrums until the ball is released, and 10m back from lineouts.

Where players are competing for ball in the air, if both players are going for the ball, and a collision occurs it will not necessarily attract a penalty, however poorly executed challenges will be penalised.

Players joining breakdowns will be penalised for dangerous play if their first contact is a shoulder charge with no arms used on players who are past the ball, on the side of the breakdown, or a player on the ground.