Rugby union’s Experimental Law Variations look to be a financial and philosophical disaster with most being kicked into touch.
Eddie Jones writes for the Couriermail that the corner-post law and the no-profit rule on passing back into the 22 and kicking directly out are staying but the rest are goners.
Just for interest, I suggested the latter law to a world conference on rugby in January, 2004. No expensive committee was needed to come up with this.
The ELVs, financially, have been a disaster. The ELVs “taskforce” has been on a long junket around the world sipping the finest wines in Stellenbosch and watching university rugby under the trial laws. The wines won!
Philosophically, it was always flawed as they worked on three principles which are fundamentally erroneous.
First, they tried to make the game entertaining. Entertainment is simple when “simple” means no contest, which is directly against the charter of the game.
Secondly, the ELVs project group worked on the principle of making the ball in play more. This was again flawed as some of the best games under the old laws had similar characteristics – high penalty counts and high ball-in-play time.
That reflected the referee sorting out the breakdown. Quick ruck ball keeps the ball in play not a low penalty count.
The third flawed premise was more tries. More tries can mean a good game but can also be the result of poor defence. Tries must be earnt.
The ELVs episode has been an unmitigated disaster – run by out-of-date coaches who do not coach any more. Australia’s Rod Macqueen has not coached since 2001, Pierre Villepreux finished around 2003, Graham Mourie last coached the Hurricanes in 2002, and former Springbok coach Ian McIntosh was at his zenith as Sharks coach in the 1990s.
The finals of the 2007 World Cup were dour affairs but there was some pulsating rugby – Wales v Fiji and Fiji v South Africa for two.
The laws were not the issue. The intent of the teams and the competence of the refs dictate the quality of the game.
Finals are never pretty because they are solely about winning.
The ELVs made the game far too generic. The trend was to copy the Crusaders’ style of kicking for field position and then play off turnover ball and kick-return.
The laws must allow teams to win in different ways – through mauling, scrummaging, lineout dominance, phase attack or defence.
A last word on Super 14. The Chiefs were tactically outstanding in beating Queensland a week ago.
The Waikato boys lack a strong scrum and this is their only stumbling block to making the top four.
Much was said about the Reds’ back three being exploited positionally but their tight five forwards must also lift their very low workrate in defence.