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New rules are being set up to fail

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The chances of the IRB introducing the experimental law variations at the 2011 World Cup in New Zealand appear increasingly unlikely.

Reports The Australian

To be sure, the IRB has stated the game needs changes to spark attacking rugby after the defence-orientated 2007 World Cup in France, which was won by South Africa.

The so-called Stellenbosch laws, or at least most of them, are currently being trialled in the Super 14 series.

The laws are also expected to be trialled in the Tri Nations series in August-September before the IRB council votes in November on whether to trial the laws on a worldwide basis for a year.

The main obstacle to the introduction of the new laws is the perception in the northern hemisphere that the rules are part of a southern hemisphere conspiracy to change the game to suit the running rugby of Australia and New Zealand.

The IRB council has already delayed making a decision on a global trial of the laws with the vote originaly scheduled to take place this May.

Of course, at that stage the laws would not have been trialled in professional rugby in Europe.

The IRB has convened a special meeting of the Six Nations in March with an aim of introducing the rules to European rugby later this year.

But with the European season starting in September, the laws will have only been on trial for two months in Europe before the IRB votes on the global trial in November.

The recommendation to the IRB from the laws committee will be written in June or July before the new rules are even played in professional European competitions.

The Europeans will take a lot of convincing to change the game because for the most part they are happy with the way it is now.

While southern hemisphere observers may find aspects of European rugby dull and boring, the game is going gangbusters in the north with record crowds, sponsorship and television audiences. Why change?

It does not take a great deal of imagination to think that the IRB council will delay the vote again.

And this is where it gets tricky. A new law has to be in play for two years before it can be used in a World Cup.

If the IRB council delays the vote again, it will be cutting it fine to include the new laws in the 2011 tournament.

Even if the timeline is favourable, there will be a great debate about which, if any, of the new laws are approved.

The power-brokers in the northern hemisphere will surely have noticed that the news laws have advantaged teams such as the Crusaders and the Blues which want to play attacking rugby rather than a negative, defence-orientated game.

The northern unions may also find an unlikely ally in South Africa, who did very well under the old laws, winning the World Cup and the Super 14 series last year.

It was worth noting that Frans Ludeke, coach of the defending Super 14 champion Bulls, blamed the new laws for his team’s seven tries to one thrashing at the hands of the Crusaders in Pretoria last Saturday.

If South Africa adopts this attitude, there is no guarantee the Tri Nations will be played under the new laws.

Perhaps, even more damning was Bulls and Springboks winger Bryan Habana’s claim that the new rules were turning rugby into rugby league.

It was the IRB’s determination that rugby remain distinct from rugby league which led to key changes in the interpretation of the laws after the 1999 World Cup, which was won by Rod Macqueen’s Wallabies.

To prevent the Wallabies’ multi-phase game resembling unlimited tackle rugby league, the IRB instructed referees to strongly police the tackle contest, which swung the advantage in favour of the defensive team.

Attacking teams such as the Crusaders and All Blacks have overcome this negativity with the concept of offensive-defence, but the 2003 (England) and 2007 (South Africa) World Cups were won by teams playing conservative, percentage rugby.

The new laws have swung the advantage back in favour of the attacking team, but that may not necessarily be to everyone’s liking, particularly in the northern hemisphere.

And that is why we are unlikely to see the new laws in play in New Zealand in 2011.

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8 COMMENTS

  1. I would scrap them today.

    The only laws I’m interested in seeing on trial are “hands in the ruck” and “collapsing the maul”.

    Those two alone would retain the flavour of rugby and make it more interesting at a stroke.

    If “outsiders” cannot understand the game “in an instant”, tough. An amazing amount of people stick it out and eventually come to love the complicated and arcane nature of union.

    The game is big already and it’s growing faster and bigger in the precise areas that are MOST resistent to tinkering with the laws – France & England.

    At worst, the game will plateau in the SH, i.e. it will STILL be financially viable for sponsors, advertisers and broadcasters but it won’t grow at a huge rate. It will still grow, exponentially, as today’s fans kids grow up.

  2. The current ELVs are rubbish.
    Only an idiotic suggestion by the Australian brought them on trial.
    C’mon let’s scrap them immediately.

  3. The only country that might get more viewers(supporters) would be Australia. And SA viewers will dwindle and decrease in such a case(if we keep on losing). That in the end will mean less money for the IRB.

    These rules won’t and cannot work in NH conditions, it will be unorganised chaos with mistakes all round as the players get tired on those heavy fields.

  4. At the start i was excited aboout the new laws because as I coach i look at the different possibilities etc. I am not so convinced anymore. Need to wait till week 7 to see how it developes further!

  5. “The only laws I’m interested in seeing on trial are “hands in the ruck? and “collapsing the maul?.

    Ras in the ARC… almost every ruck and maul turned into a stalemate wrestling match… in fact slowing the game down… was terrible…

  6. Interesting statement regarding

    “the perception in the northern hemisphere that the rules are part of a southern hemisphere conspiracy to change the game to suit the running rugby of Australia and New Zealand.”

    So they have a perception but they are unwilling to put the ELVs to the test themselves. Seems they are paranoid. They can’t have it both ways surely? I would imagine Ireland, France and to a lesser extent Wales, Scotland and Italy would do pretty well playing a more expansive game. That leaves, let me see, England! Are they the flies in the ointment?

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