Controversial bonus points will be awarded to teams in the Rugby Union Six Nations Tournament that starts in February.
In a bid to make the games more competitive by encouraging teams to attack more, winning and losing teams can stack up extra tournament points.
Each team can win the points like this:
- Scoring four tries in a match attracts a bonus point
- A losing team ending a match no more than seven points away from the winning score picks up a point as well
- If a team wins all their five tournament matches, a special three-point bonus is awarded
Wales interim coach Rob Howley believes bonus points will make closing out matches harder for winning sides.
High tackle controversy
“The history and the legacy of the Six Nations is about winning the game,” he said.
“There’s no doubt there will be a mindset change in terms of the last 20 minutes of matches. If you find yourself near a bonus point you’re more likely to go for it.”
Another controversy is the high tackle rule introduced to stop injuries to players.
The new laws have seen a spate of red and yellow cards during club league and cup matches and some players and managers fear worries over tackling may interfere with play.
“The sanctions for a high tackle have changed to look after player safety. We’re seeing a lot more cards and penalties and the players have to adapt,” said Howley.
England are favourites
Who will win the tournament is close to call. England have an envious recent record, including a three-match win on the road in Australia, while Wales are regarded as ‘sleeping giants’.
The Six Nations is a rugby tournament between England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France and Italy.
The holders are England, who are also the team with the most titles – 27 outright and 10 shared.
Wales are the second most successful side with 26 outright titles and 12 shared.
The forthcoming Lions tour of New Zealand later in the year may also have a bearing on who wins.
The squad is drawn from players across the tournament, and many will want to stake a claim to be included in the rugby tests.