Rugby League

NRL introduces new 'free play' rule at Auckland Nines

The NRL will trial a "free play" advantage during the Auckland Nines. The NRL announced that the two day tournament would feature a rule change which will allow teams to retain possession even if they make an error in possession on a zero tackle.

The referee will call zero tackle when a team gains possession from a knock, forward pass or accidental offside. That will enable a free play where the team will retain the ball even if they make a mistake.

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The advantage will be complete if the team scores, if a player commits foul play or a player with the ball is tackled.

If the team makes an error before the next play the ball the referee will order a play the ball at the point of the original infringement.

Innovation: The Auckland Nines in 2016 will feature an experimental rule.
Innovation: The Auckland Nines in 2016 will feature an experimental rule. Photo: Getty Images

NRL general manager of football Nathan McGuirk said the rule change would increase ball movement and provide more excitement. "The Nines is already one of the most entertaining events on the Rugby League calendar," McGuirk said. "But this rule change will encourage teams gaining possession from a mistake to take a risk because they know they will still retain the ball even if they make a mistake."

Teams will also retain possession if they kick the ball and the team who made the original error recovers it. "We are hoping to see teams take advantage of this rule with some amazing, opportunistic plays, which we think will result in more points and more great tries scored for the fans," McGuirk said.

Teams will compete for about $2.4 million in prize money on February 6 and 7. 

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