New Top 14 rules: would they have made a difference this season?


Yesterday the LNR (Ligue Nationale de Rugby) announced a raft of changes to next season’s Top 14. Amongst them was a ruling dictating that losing bonus points will be awarded for being within five points, not seven, of the winning side’s total.

It got us thinking – how much of a difference would the changes have made to the top three Northern Hemisphere leagues this season? We trawled through the season’s results and deducted bonus points on those occasions teams had lost by six or seven points – as will be the case in next season’s Top 14. The results are summarised in the three tables below:

Top 14

Aviva Premiership

RaboDirect PRO12

So what does this tell us? First of all, the Top 14 is clearly the most affected league. With one round left to play, Racing would be in pole position for a spot in the top two and a direct route into the semi-finals, rather than Montpellier or Clermont, who would both lose several points and as a result face a game in the Barrages. Toulouse would be another big loser, dropping out of the top six in place of Stade Fran├žais and in the process losing not only a play-off spot but also a guaranteed place at next season’s top European table.

At the other end of the league it would be even more poignant – Oyonnax, in reality tied on 50 points with two other teams, would be almost guaranteed safety if they could grab a single point from their final game, and Perpignan would be comfortable favourites for the drop. Sadly no number of bonus points in the world could have saved Biarritz this season.

In the Premiership, there wouldn’t be any positional changes, but with two rounds still to go it would make the play-off race a whole lot tighter given Quins would edge closer to the Tigers. At the other end of the table the gap between Newcastle and Worcester would be cut by two points – who knows what importance that would have had in the mindset of the players in recent weeks?

The battle for the European play-off spot would also have been intensified, given that Exeter would have closed the gap on Wasps to just three points.

There are no positional changes in the RaboDirect PRO12 either, but at the top the Ospreys’ hopes of a play-off berth would have all but disappeared, given that they would drop two points further behind Ulster. The race to qualify for the Rugby Champions Cup next season wouldn’t be affected much either, but Treviso would sit a little more comfortably over Zebre in that guaranteed Italian spot.

So the Top 14 is the only league that would have been drastically affected, but of course, we are looking at all this with the benefit of hindsight – if teams had known that they needed to be within five to get a bonus point at the time, chances are they would have made different choices on the pitch and the results would have been different. Still, it’s an interesting exercise and one that shows next season’s Top 14 could be quite different.

By Jamie Hosie
Follow Jamie on Twitter: @jhosie43

Photo by: Patrick Khachfe / Onside Images

6 thoughts on “New Top 14 rules: would they have made a difference this season?

  1. It would be interesting to see what would happen to the Pro12 and AP if you also had the Try BP system used in the Top14, rather than the one currently used, to compare the leagues fully (or what would be the table in the Top 14 if they used the 4 try BP used in the R12 & AP)…

  2. The adjustment I would make to the losing bonus point system is to earn one you must also have scored at least one try during the game. Falcons (on less than a try a game) have been a very disappointing addition to the Premiership. Needing to play a bit more to get at least a point out of a game would force a change of mindset for those whose goal is no more than survive. Similarly I wouldn’t be adverse to only giving 3 points out for a tryless win.

    1. I like you’re idea of only 3 points for a tryless win. Not sure it would make much difference to the teams at the top of the table though. I think also reducing the points for penalties and drop goals wouldn’t be a bad idea.

      1. I’ve always backed 2-points for penalties or six-point tries. The disadvantage is that it could lead to higher indiscipline. The idea that you could be docked a point for no tries is a great one though and avoids that problem. No losing bonus point and 3-points wins if no try is scored would have a fantastic impact on the sport.

  3. Nice piece Jamie.
    Not a fan of bonus point generally but especially losing bonus points. The most frustrating sight in rugby is seeing a team losing by 8, 9 or 10 points and going for posts with 1 minute left!
    Top 14 is only NH league massively affected by bps. It’s a bit of a joke that Toulouse are currently ahead of Stade Francais and Bayonne are ahead of Oyonnax… #WINNING

  4. I don’t like the bonus points system. It is artificial as it makes no or very little difference. Run a table based on the (old fashioned) Six Nations 2pts for a win & 1pt for a draw & you will normally find maybe 1 change in mid table. All the other teams are still in the same order.
    I would prefer to go back to this but to use the bonus points to be the 1st tiebreaker.
    Or rank the teams based on most wins first then most draws & then on bonus points before using tries or points scored.

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