There is a slim chance that Australia’s Tests against Ireland and France in June and July will be played under the experimental law variations, but the laws are more likely to be introduced at international level in the Tri-Nations series.
Brett Harris writes in The Australian that the International Rugby Board has convened a special meeting with the European Six Nations – England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales – in Dublin to discuss the trialling of the laws in the northern hemisphere.
The Australian Rugby Union is keen to play the Tests against Ireland and France under the new laws, which are being trialled in the Super 14 series, but the northern teams will be reluctant to become international guinea pigs.
“Perhaps the June Test window would be an opportunity, but then you are asking coaches to get their players to play under laws they haven’t used in their club competitions,” IRB head of communications Greg Thomas said in Sydney.
“They will come up against teams that have played the ELVs for four months solid.
“It is a bit tough for them and let’s be fair, coaches are judged on results.
“They would feel coming down here and playing under a new set of laws would be a disadvantage to them. That’s why we are going to have this discussion with them in March.”
The laws are expected to be trialled in the European domestic competitions, which start in September.
The IRB needs to see the laws trialled in Europe before the IRB council meets in November to decide whether to trial the new laws worldwide for a year.
“The experimental law variations have been quite successful to date from the fact that we have now trialled them at the top professional level in the southern hemisphere,” Thomas said.
“We now need to see the laws trialled in the northern hemisphere.
“We need to identify some competition somewhere where the professional players can get used to playing them.
“We’ve probably got a vote in council in November about the introduction of the laws globally for 12 months. It’s only fair that the north should have a chance to play them.
“The next question is, if you decide to bring in the ELVs globally, at what time of the year do you bring them in because the fact you’ve got northern and southern hemispheres playing at different times, somebody will be disadvantaged.
“That’s why we feel if the north could at some time this year experiment with the ELVs both hemispheres will have had a look at them and played them and it will bring the implementation forward.”
The IRB council has already delayed voting on the global introduction of the laws by six months, and it is possible there will be a further postponement.
But the IRB cannot afford to push the decision back too far because new laws must be introduced two years before the Rugby World Cup, and the next tournament is in New Zealand in 2011.
“We have to get this right,” Thomas said.
“We are not rushing the ELVs in for any particular reason. We have already delayed them for six months. The original council vote would have taken place in May. Perhaps we will delay the council vote again, but the key issue is to get this right, to bring in the ELVs across the board, which we think are positive for the game.
“But we also have to remember that the World Cup is in 2011 and we have to have a sufficient amount of time where international teams play under the ELVs before the World Cup and that’s usually about a two-year period.”
SANZAR is almost certain to use the new rules in the Tri-Nations.
“The issue for SANZAR is, do they bring in the full raft of ELVs or just the ELVs in the Super 14,” Thomas said.
“There is a difference. The Super 14 is not trialling collapsing the maul or hands in the ruck and those are two key issues. That has to be determined as well.”
There is a suspicion in the northern hemisphere that the laws are a southern hemisphere invention to alter the game.
But Thomas said statistical analysis of the new laws in the Super 14 showed the game was fundamentally the same.
“What the statistics show is we still have the same number of scrums, there’s still lineouts, there’s still the tackle, there’s still the breakdown, this is still a game for all shapes and sizes,” Thomas said.
“I think some of those fears will be allayed, but it is up to the Six Nations unions to determine whether they want to trial these ELVs.”Tweet