SANZAR must decide which experimental laws will be used in this year’s Tri Nations tournament following the International Rugby Board’s announcement of a year-long global trial of 13 law changes.
The trial – to take place at all levels of the game – will involve 13 of the proposed 23 Experimental Law Variations (ELVs) and begin on August 1. These include the controversial ELV, not being used in the Super 14, that allows defending teams to pull down a maul.
Greg Gowden writes for RugbyHeaven Aus that Several other important ELVs, including free-kick sanctions at the breakdown, will also be trialled in an elite northern hemisphere competition.
While the IRB’s success in getting several critical ELVs through despite intense opposition from northern hemisphere teams is a victory of sorts, it will still lead to some confusion down south.
Not all of the ELVs used in the Super 14 are part of the worldwide trial, which begins during the Tri Nations, and, consequently, Sanzar must decide this month exactly what laws to adopt when the three countries kick off the competition in July.
The governing body must resolve whether to continue using the law that allows free-kicks for all offences bar offside, not entering through the gate and foul play. Another up for debate is whether the side not taking the ball in is given a free-kick when there is unplayable ball at the breakdown.
ARU chief executive John O’Neill said last night that the IRB decision was “in many ways better than we expected”.
“There is flexibility for Sanzar nations to continue trialling other ELVs already in place in various competitions throughout our three countries, including those in the Super 14,” O’Neill said.
Early indications are that the Super 14 laws plus the dropping of the maul will be applied during the Tri Nations. But New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew, speaking from the IRB meeting in Dublin, said he wanted to consult the All Blacks coaching staff before making a decision.
All Blacks coach Graham Henry was opposed to the ELVs earlier this season. New Wallabies coach Robbie Deans is far more favourable, and Henry is clearly concerned his Bledisloe Cup opponent has the jump on him because of his deep involvement at Super 14 level this season with the Crusaders. No matter what, Australia’s home Tests against France and Ireland in June will be played under the old laws.
Tew admitted that having different versions of the game being played across the globe could prompt confusion.
“But we think the end result is worthwhile,” Tew said. “We haven’t got exactly what we wanted, but we’ve done better than we thought we might have.
“What we probably don’t appreciate in the south is that [they] think their game was going from strength to strength, and didn’t need any change.
“We have a different view. We’ve seen the results of the ELVs. What we are now pushing very hard is for them to read the facts and have a crack at it themselves so they can see how it works.”
Tew said the ELVs were supported by Scotland, but among the key northern hemisphere countries “were a couple of pretty staunch opponents”.
“But there was a lot of work done this week, formally and informally, through working groups and also discussions over pints of Guinness. There was concern this was a Southern Hemisphere conspiracy, and a bit of talk that we didn’t want scrums down there. But the facts don’t reflect that at all. Scrums are in fact now more important in going forward.”
Tew admitted New Zealand were surprised that the dragging down of the maul had been approved, “because we weren’t convinced that all the safety elements of that exercise had been thought through”.
“All of us are a little nervous. But kicking into the corner and scoring a try from a rolling maul after a lineout wasn’t doing the game much good … so maybe it’s a good thing.”
As expected, the ELV decision prompted mixed views in the British press. The Independent said the IRB meeting “could have been a major catastrophe, but resulted in nothing worse than a minor calamity”.Tweet