Yet another change to scrum rules has been introduced for the Super Rugby season, changes which Highlanders assistant coach Mark Hammett expects to test some teams.

Under the new rules, one player from the team who fed the scrum must strike for the ball, and the scrum half will decide when to feed it - with no signal from the referee.

"(It) will be a bit of a change for certain teams, but not a change for us," Hammett said. "Most New Zealand teams hook the ball still. It just means the ability to get quicker ball from the scrum at a lower height."

Teams have spent up to one week with referees in camp getting up to speed on the new rules, with new rules around the breakdown also being introduced which Hammett said allowed for teams to hang on to the ball easier and defences would need to put more emphasis on getting behind the advantage line to stop quick attacks.

Advertisement

Highlanders loose forward Luke Whitelock echoed Hammett's thoughts on the rule tweaks, and said "If anything it should make a cleaner, faster game if you're getting momentum really."

Luke Whitelock is expected to play a big role for the Highlanders this season. Photo / Getty Images
Luke Whitelock is expected to play a big role for the Highlanders this season. Photo / Getty Images

"We've played a couple of preseason games and it probably hasn't changed that much...just less rights for people coming to the ball in terms of the tackler and in terms of where you're allowed to get up."

Whitelock was expected to play a large role in the Highlanders' 2018 campaign, which begins on Friday night when they host the Blues at Dunedin's Forsyth Barr Stadium.

The Blues come into the match buoyed by their triumph in the Brisbane 10s tournaments, however in recent years the side has struggled to find success in Super Rugby.

With the Highlanders playing eight matches this season against New Zealand teams, two more than in their 2017 campaign, Hammett said a good start was important.

"There's no doubt about it, winning early helps you later in the season."

Rule tweaks
Scrum: No signal from referee. Halfback to decide when to put ball in. Halfback must put ball in straight but can align his shoulder on the middle line of the scrum, allowing him to stand a shoulder width towards his side of the middle line.

Scrum hook - One player from the team who put the ball in must strike for the ball.

Advertisement

No 8 may pick the ball up from the feet of the locks.

Tackler - Must get up before playing the ball and then can only play from his side of the tackle gate.

Ruck (formation) - A ruck commences when at least one player is on their feet and over the ball which is on the ground (tackled player, tackler). At this point the offside line is created. A player on his feet may use his hands to pick up the ball as long as this is immediate. As soon as an opposition player arrives no hands can be used. (Made to avoid repeat of Italy's tactics against England last year)

Ruck (kicking) - A player must not kick the ball out of a ruck. The player can only hook it in a backwards motion.

To get the day's top sports stories in your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here