Super Rugby Aotearoa introduce captain's call, goal line drop-out

Super Rugby Aotearoa have introduced two new law variations, including captain's call and goal line drop-outs, for the 2021 season kicking off in just over two weeks.

The variations come following the successful introduction of golden point and the red card replacement laws in 2020.

The new innovations will be introduced as early as this weekend when Super Rugby Aotearoa sides take to the field for their first preseason matches.

The most exciting law introduction, the captain's call, will give each captain one opportunity per match to ask the referee to have the TMO check for an infringement in the lead up to a try, or to review foul play.

The captains will have 10 seconds to make their decision after a try has been awarded and the TMO will be able to go back to the last stoppage in play, regardless of how many phases have been played. While a referral for foul play can be made after any stoppage in play.

If the captain's referral is correct they will retain their captain's call, but if the referee's original decision stands, or the TMO footage is 'not clear and obvious', the captain will lose their referral.

Following the 75th minute mark, the referral can be used more broadly - as long as the captain still retains their one referral -- to check any referee decision, regardless whether a try has been scored.

NZR National Referee's Manager Bryce Lawrence said the captain's call would add another layer of scrutiny on foul play and mitigate any errors from determining the match outcome in the final minutes.

"We think the captain's referral is a no-brainer," Lawrence said. "Nobody wants to see a match decided on a wrong call, particularly in the final minutes, and especially in a competition as fiercely and closely contested as Super Rugby Aotearoa was in 2020.

"When a match goes down the wire and hangs on a referee's decision, everyone wants to make sure we get a positive outcome.

"Rugby is a fast-paced and, at times complex game, so another set of eyes is always a good thing. We've seen this sort of concept succeed in other sports and we want to see how it goes when applied to rugby."

The second law variation, the new goal line drop-out law, is similar to what Super Rugby AU introduced in 2020. The variation will see a goal line drop-out brought in when an attacking player carrying the ball is held up in the in-goal or knocks the ball on in the in-goal area. A goal line drop-out will also occur when an attacking kick - other than a penalty or drop goal attempt - is grounded by the defending team in their in-goal.

NZR Head of High Performance Mike Anthony said the new law variations were introduced to make the game more attractive.

"We're constantly looking at how we can make the game faster and fairer for players, and a better spectacle for fans and we're hopeful the goal line drop-out and captain's referral will go some way to achieving those objectives in 2021."