All Along the Watchtower
Scrum is king under the new laws
Sydney Morning Herald
May 6, 2008
THERE were 25 scrums during the Crusaders- Sharks match. The Highlanders kicked four penalties to defeat the Cheetahs, even though they played with 13 men in the later stages of the match.
There were 34 tries in seven matches, despite the fact that two of the matches were played in wet conditions - the Crusaders-Sharks and Bulls-Waratahs games - in which there were only three and two tries scored. It is obvious that under the experimental law variations (ELVs) rugby remains a physical contest for all body shapes where an essential element in play is a continuous battle for possession. It is equally obvious, unfortunately, that the opposition to the ELVs from the Rugby Football Union (the England rugby union that still believes it should run rugby as it did before 1949) and a group of influential rugby writers on the leading English broadsheets is not based on fact.
The opposition is all about resisting the end of the RFU's dominance over the governance of the game, and the end of the influential rugby writers' dominant position as arbiters of what is good for the game. There is a certain consistency here. The RFU and the rugby writers have, for more than 100 years, opposed every major reform of the laws and governance of the game, from the value of a try to the concept of a World Cup. When there were calls to give a value to a try in the 1890s, the RFU chairman harrumphed that players with speed shouldn't be rewarded just because they were fast runners. Several of the influential rugby writers leading the charge against the ELVs insisted, in a similar mindset, that when lifting in the lineout was introduced that there would never be another lineout turnover. They argued passionately for a return of the "dockyard brawl" lineout.
English rugby, its officials, its clubs and its journalists, have always seen rugby as more of a football game than a rugby game. The ELVs are part of a 100-year evolution to create an authentic rugby game, to minimise the football element of rugby. The variation, for instance, that restricts direct kicks to touch if the ball is passed back into the 22 was played in Australia and Auckland in the 1920s under the title of the "Australian dispensation". The ELVs will, finally, globalise this Australian dispensation.
All the matches in round 12 of the Super 14 were hard, fast, tough and skilful. It is noticeable that teams with strong scrums, such as the Crusaders and the Hurricanes, used this part of the game to establish dominance over their resilient opponents. On the other hand the Waratahs, with their less powerful scrum, were not able to capitalise on the fivemetres behind the scrum variation to set up try-scoring moves. The Waratahs also do not have a long-range penalty goalkicker. Last week's hero of the long-range penalty goal, Lote Tuqiri, missed his two kicks by wide margins against the Bulls. It's time to end the Lote-as-kicker experiment and give Kurtley Beale, who kicked the trifecta with a conversion, a penalty and a well-taken field goal, all the shots at goal.
The Waratahs remain the best hope for Australian finalists. They play the rampant Stormers in Cape Town on Sunday morning, Sydney time. If they win, they will probably have a home finals match. If they lose, they face the daunting prospect of having to defeat the Reds in Brisbane to make the top four.
There's too much confusion, I can't get no relief
ELVs get the green light
Thursday 1st May 2008
The International Rugby Board (IRB) has announced that 13 of the 23 Experimental Law Variations (ELVs) will undergo a worldwide trial for a 12-month period, starting on August 1, 2008.
The trial will take place at all levels of the game - from junior rugby to all Test matches - and will involve over half the ELVs that have been undergoing experimentation in approved tournaments around the world over the last two years.
The IRB was pushing for the ELVs to be trialled en bloc but it seems that the motion did not receive the necessary 75 per cent backing of the 26-strong council.
Eight countries - the so-called "foundation" unions - have two votes apiece: England, France, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, plus the major southern hemisphere powers of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
In addition, four nations - Argentina, Canada, Italy and Japan - have a single vote to themselves. The other six votes are shared among the regional associations representing Africa, Asia, Europe, North America and the West Indies, Oceania and South America.
England and Wales had declared their opposition to the new laws package, whilst Ireland, Italy and Canada had also expressed reservations.
Falling short of an agreement for a global trial of all of the laws, the IRB moved to push specific ELVs and 13 were eventually accepted.
Among the more controversial amendments is legislation allowing players "defend a maul by pulling it down".
But further ELVs will be trialled in a "an elite northern hemisphere competition" - probably the European Challenge Cup - with free-kicks, rather than penalties, being awarded for the vast majority of offences.
Furthermore, the "SANZAR unions that are currently experimenting with ELV trials in the southern hemisphere - in competitions such as Super 14 and Vodacom Cup - will be allowed to continue those trials including the sanctions ELVs until the end of the global trial".
This means that three versions of the game will be in operation across the global over the course of the next year, but IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset was not perturbed - he said the agreements reached at the council meeting in Dublin on Thursday amounted to a "vindication" of the IRB's vision.
"The council's decision to implement a global trial of Experimental Law Variations represents an important milestone for the future of the game," said Lapasset.
"It vindicates the process that was adopted by the council in 2004 for future law amendments.
"The council congratulated the Law Project Group on its unprecedented work over the past two years.
"It was also agreed that the 'sanctions ELVs' [reduction of sanctions to free kicks from penalty kicks where possible] that were not approved for global trials would be further trialled in a selected elite northern hemisphere competition in the 2008/09 season.
"The southern hemisphere will continue to play under the various ELV programme environments that exist in that part of the world at present. It would be unfair to change the playing environment under which countries in the south are currently playing in competitions such as the Super 14.
"Not one of the council representatives was against the global implementation of an ELV programme of some description.
"Many of the ELVs received unanimous approval as they had clearly shown potential to be beneficial to the game thus meriting a further trial at all levels around the world.
"The Laws Project Group had recommended a global trial of all of the ELVs but there were differing opinions between the council members on some of the ELVs in the area of the tackle and ruck, maul, sanctions and offside.
"The key point here was that the members did not dismiss these ELVs outright but believed that further consideration and trials were necessary.
"This is particularly true of the 'sanctions ELVs' which have not been trialled by senior unions in the north but which have been received favourably by players and coaches that have played under them in the southern hemisphere.
"The Laws Project Group has been tasked to closely monitor the global trial with the assistance of its member unions. It will also work with the senior unions in the north to deliver and analyse the sanctions ELVs in an elite northern hemisphere competition.
"In November 2009, the council will review all the ELVs that will undergo global trial, along with the 'sanctions ELVs' that will undergo approved trials in specific competitions. The council will then decide at this meeting if all or any of the ELVs should be accepted into full law." . . .
Complete story here.
I shall be keenly interested to see which direction the suits at Rugby Canada are leaning and how they'll vote.
More here, here, and here.