Steve Tew hopes some middle ground can be found on the contentious tackled ball area as rugby gets set to mix new and old with a fresh set of rules after several years of experimenting.
A London conference involving 60 key rugby people from around the world has recommended 10 of the 13 ELVs that have been trialled over the past two years be rubber stamped by the International Rugby Board next month to finally give the game some global unity.
Duncan Johnstone reports for RugbyHeaven that ELVs regarding sacking the maul, body positions at mauls and unlimited numbers in lineouts were thrown out.
The key ELVs involving free kicks rather than penalties and the general refereeing of the tackle-ruck infringements were officially listed as “still under review”.
But according to Tew they have no chance of being passed by the IRB in May as they become a major sticking point with the northern representatives who haven’t even bothered to trial them, yet argue against them.
“There is no chance that the sanctions will be agreed to at council in May,” Tew said in a phone conference call from the UK where he headed a large New Zealand delegation at the conference.
“We had the 10 major unions in the room yesterday with the people who will make decisions before they go to council. There is no chance the sanctions are going to get through.
“The Six Nations simply don’t agree with them.”
Tew felt the London gathering was hugely positive in giving general agreement to “the straight forward” ELVs. But he clearly lamented the negativity towards the sanctions.
And so he should. This area remains the biggest grey area in rugby and yet it hasn’t been dealt with, other than to revert to the old rules.
“The sanctions are most handy at the tackle and ruck situation because you don’t have to go to a straight penalty every time there is an infringement,” he said.
“It is the part of the game which is the most difficult to both play and referee.”
Tew indicated there were hopes the IRB could find some middle ground and initiate a more literal interpretation of the current law to allow the first tackler to continue working for the ball with his hands irrespective of whether a ruck is formed.
“At the moment it is a bit like going through green, orange and red lights without the orange light.
“Hopefully we can improve the contest and give the referee more discretion if we allow that player to hang on to the ball and finish the act he had started.”
Tew felt one of the biggest lessons to come out of the conference was that if there was to be any future trialling, it needed to be done with a universal approach so that “we don’t confuse ourselves and everybody else in the process”
“We had the rather ridiculous situation yesterday where the Six Nations were en masse rejecting law variations which they had not trialled,” Tew said.
“It’s fair to say that raised a few eyebrows given they were telling us why they didn’t work. They were basing their arguments on assumptions rather than facts.”
Tew felt talk of the ELVs being a north v south issue was something built more around media attention.
It should be remembered that the ELVs were initiated by the IRB after extensive reviews.
That 10 of the 13 had been accepted was proof of acceptance from both sides of the equator.
Now it is a matter of sorting out a start date for new laws that can suit both hemispheres.
June is the traditional time for northern teams to tour south, an itinerary that is highlighted this year by the British & Irish Lions playing a test series against the Springboks in South Africa.
While the IRB will make a decision in May, Tew indicated the start the start date for the introduction of the laws might not be till August 1.
That could allow Sanzar to continue with the sanctions in the Tri-Nations although it seems they need to think of the bigger picture.
“Obviously that (August 1) doesn’t work with the southern hemisphere because some competitions will have started.
“We will have to give that some thought. We were really keen to see what was going to go through before we finally determined those things.
“We will want to talk to our coaches, some of our players, and obviously consult with our own board and others before we make that call.
“There is a pretty strong argument that the sooner we move to the law that is going to be in place, the better it is.
“Conversely, another top-level competition trialling something that we still have some faith in that might one day get some traction also some potential for some upside.”
To see the IRB Media release on the outcome and suggestions at the meeting read it HERE.Tweet