Planet Rugby

Mailbox: Your shout on the ELVs

04th May 2008 19:23


Rolland whistle

Legal Wrangle: 'Rugby is meant to be fun not just a fitness test'

The IRB's decision to rubberstamp a global trial of the Experimental Law Variations (ELVs) has caused our readers much consternation - but there are also those who view the new laws in a positive light. Here are a few of your views on the matter....

In memory of the game of Rugby Union, died 1st May 2008, murdered by the Australians, betrayed by the IRB. Loved by all that knew it, will be wept for in its homeland. Its body will be burnt and the ashes sprinkled over the hallowed Twickenham turf.

- Chris Royals, UK

I think this is what rugby needs to keep it going at the forefront of world sport.

Referee's interpretation is killing the game as too many of the referee's in European rugby are to weak to control the game against side's with the big packs, with 7 forwards offside and no way of stopping it and the maul goes on for 10 minuets. Fans don't want to see 8 men in a heap they want to see attractive football.

Stop the rolling maul and make the game a spectacle of free flowing rugby and not that some whistle happy control freak of a referee who likes the sound of his own voice.

The English don't want to change any of the rules as it is the only way they know how to play the game. Pass the ball back into the 22 from the half way line and rolling mauls. If the English had their way rugby would be a 10 man team. 8 forwards and 2 half backs who could kick the leather off the ball.

- Lee Davies

Thank you for the insight into the game I loved, but now I am off to watch rugby league. At the end of the season I am going to game that union is trying to become.

Why on earth has rugby shot itself in the foot? Crowds in the N. Hemisphere on the up. Mmm another low turnout for S14 is it due to their simple rules and the fact that everyone will look like a back row player? League must be chuckling as rugby drives away a growing fan base to League.

Bristol to be the first team to have a league team outside London or the heartland of league? I now think the world cup should be reduced to 12 teams instead of 20 (which worked) as the amateur nations will not have the fitness to compete.

Less people will play outside the pro leagues as it is meant to be fun not just a fitness test! I thought collapsing a maul was meant to be dangerous? Any other sport to watch beside rugby? Thank you and goodbye.

- Tom Spaight, UK

For what it's worth what we should really be afraid of, is the All or Nothing Position.

It's clear cut, easy to say and easy to hold and requires no thought at all. The other side are variously, a bunch of antipodean marketing men with dollar signs for eyes, or a crowd of arrogant little Englanders who still think they run the world. Easy. Stop thinking everyone - please, it'll make it all so much easier. One side smiles and cheers (they're the good guys) and the other lot boo and hiss (they're the bad ones). In the mean time, we'll just do what we want with the game anyway.

But that's not fair either because the IRB are no more the Devil than we are. They have their agenda and their priorities, and lord knows they're trying to grow the game. What would be helpful is for each change to considered on it's own merits and not as a bundle. Some the things I've seen are good, others not so, which is why you try things. Take what works and what is acceptable and dump the rest. There's 3 parts to that last, and it would help a lot if everyone took that on board. This is real life and a game we all love, so let's not be stupid.

- Matthew Denner, UK

All of the comments you have one your web site are from people involved in the top class game. While their points are valid many more people play the game at grass roots where lower fitness levels mean that these changes are likely to reduce the numbers of players available. There will simply be no place for larger or older players who cannot keep up with the game. Without roots the tree will wither! Also I am extremely concerned that people will be seriously hurt pulling down mauls without the technique and fitness to do it properly. Apart from the personal tragedy this could also be expensive for Rugby's insurers. I am not against change but part of it has to be to get more people playing the game not just filling the coffers of the top clubs.

- Lee Foster, age 49 and still playing!

I don't understand the mentality of some long living reptiles in the game of rugby!! some people must start to understand that rugby is not just played in Europe, what the IRB or SANZAR are trying to do is make the game more attractive, we shouldn't forget that this is starting to become a global game and to attract more sponsors and generate revenue you have to capture a larger audience! Not just a bunch of old geezers who like tradition. Get your head out of the sand and think of the future for the game. It has to evolve or it will die out!

- Ashley Gilmore

Could the next person who uses Bryan Habana's quote in relation to the ELVs please cease calling himself a journalist? This quote was given after the first match played under the experimental laws, and has no relevance to the debate today.

When I played rugby as an amateur I actually hated playing with fat, unfit buffoons who spent more time at the pub than training. I also hated all the incessant stoppages, but don't get me wrong, I loved playing rugby. So please don't bring out stupid sob stories about our poor amateurs having to learn new laws etc.

The new laws do have potential to improve rugby for both players and spectators alike. Their success will depend on the attitude of the players and coaches. So be innovative, have fun and stop whining - please!

- James, Australia

Many rugby players, refs, officials and supporters appear to like some of the new rules and dislike others but to have 3 different (possibly 4) sets of rules is just going to confuse the issue completely and referees and players are going to struggle when changing from one to the other. This will not allow a fair trial of the new rules.

- Gareth Williams, UK

The decision by the IRB to trial the Stellenbosch ELVs is an excellent one. As the fitness and added strength have changed the physical attributes of the modern player, so the Laws should also change to accommodate them. Some of the ELVs are designed to make breakdowns more competitive and to get forwards out of the backline with resulting space.

Keep in mind the Stellenbosch ELVs are still experimental, and are being trialled before final consideration. They are not permanent unless the rugby community chooses to adopt them.

- Timothy Donelan, NSW, Australia

I agree 100% with Andy Jackson [read article here] - scrums and mauls are the foundations of rugby union, and are being killed by the new laws. If I wanted to watch league, I would, but I don't. Run, bash ad nauseam isn't my thing either.

Some of the changes are OK, such as touch judges being able signal faults the referee didn't see, or quick throw-ins being able to be towards your own goal line. Most of the rest are crap, will do nothing to bring new fans to rugby and will put off a lot of the crusty old die-hards like me.

Last point: it seems to me the Super 14 and Tri-Nations are in trouble, not because of rugby's laws, but because they're fundamentally boring competitions. The heart and soul of NZ rugby used to be provincial matches. The morons who run the NZRU have practically killed off any interest in them. Adding matches is just creating more boredom - as Andy put it, the value of a diamond is in its rarity. NZ playing South Africa three times a year in Hong Kong or wherever won't save the Argentine-less, Pacific Island-less (yawn) Tri-Nations. The heart and soul of Southern Hemisphere rugby used to be tours, and the last Lions tour to NZ proved the lasting interest of the formula, including mid-week matches, which the All Blacks no longer play in Europe, for example, but were crucial in blooding young players and in bringing in some extra shekels. They were always sellouts and still would be.

But who listens to lifelong rugby fans like me any more?

- Peter Fletcher, Grenoble

I think your one-eyed reporting on the possible ELVs trial is rubbish. From what Andy Jackson has written it is fair to say he hasn't watched many Super 14 games this year. From the little I have seen it is the clever team with better tactics succeeding, and the teams that "Run, bash, run, bash, run, bash, run, bash..." do not succeed; look at the Bulls this season. There is obviously some xenophobia going on but you have to move with the times, rugby has evolved a lot over the last 100 years or so. Paddy Brian is correct: "Players are fitter, stronger and quicker and therefore the referee's decision-making time gets shorter and shorter," and the old rules are very subjective, and how each referee interprets any given law can often lead to misunderstandings and frustration, by players, coaches, and supporters. The game will still have the same mis-matches in players size, and have the skills and nuances of old, but they might just be different. Should we ban lifting in the line-outs just because it wasn't there originally? Don't be silly. I think that Andy Jackson is "insulting our intelligence" by assuming we will have no chance in understanding the new laws, when in fact they have been simplified. Just because they are different does not mean they are going to destroy the game. Yes, time will be required for everyone involved to adjust to the changes, and even longer to fully grasps new tactics and skills that will now be available, but we are not morons and I am sure everyone will cope, and indeed, be excited by the opportunities presented. Please lose the sarcasm and negativity and look at them for what they are: trials! I am sure if some or all the rules are not helping the game they will be reviewed, changed or discarded. So I do look forward to the May 1st talks, and I hope rugby is the winner by going ahead with the ELVs trials in this country.

- Nathan Young

Wonderful comments by Andy Jackson on the new ELV's. There is more sense written in his article than I've heard for a long time. Perhaps he should be invited on to the IRB.

I've said it before - the game is in a mess, frustratingly so to spectators, and it is wholly due to all the top referees, who decided to have a game which they want. Not what anyone else wants but what they find is easy to referee. They continually apply their own LAWS regardless of the current ones- have introduced and encouraged a game which blatantly favours the team in possession and have severely restricted the art of a fair contest for the ball. In this they have been obviously supported by Assessors/Advisers or why else would they be allowed to continue as they do.

The game has become more physical- there is no doubt- but this has been encouraged by the referees because it is, as Mr Jackson says,- a game of BASH-RUN-BASH-BASH-RUN-BASH-RUN-BASH-RUN- I could continue more BASHES AND RUNS because going through 12-15 phases is common place these days. The team with the ball know that the referee is going to favour them and so keeping the ball is easy - one yard at a time.

And the ELV'S WILL DO NOTHING TO ALTER THAT if what we see at Super 14 level is the yardstick. Because the mentality of the referee has not changed. Referees have to be fitter- RUBBISH- The ball is in play longer confirms the statistics- yes but who is playing with it- Only the players who are involved in the BASH-RUN-BASH-RUN -play. And where is the referee when this is going on- just a few metres away- hardly covering any ground at all. Statistics support the fact that referees sprint less than 1% of their overall movement. And they have 2 other officials to help them!!!! AND-The ball at the base of a tackle/ruck is now taking longer to be played- there are occasions when it may be 30/40secs.- And only the attacking side can touch it. Such excitement!

Unfortunately up and coming referees are following suit because they don't want to rock the boat and halt their hopeful rise to the top so what chance have we got? Apart maybe from a very few ELV's there is no need to to alter any of the laws - just get the referees to referee them as they are meant to be. The game was becoming a game for the big, strong, powerful, physical player- ONE shining beacon emerged to support the call for the smaller player-SHANE WILLIAMS- but he is a rarity, unfortunately, and a one off. And his sort will not be encouraged by how they see the game at the moment.

But how often is he involved in the BASH-RUN -BASH -RUN phases? "Oh please give me the ball with just a bit of space and I'll try to do something unorthodox"- Luckily for him the Ospreys and Wales last season and in 2005 appreciated his skill. Well it looks like August when the Northern Hemisphere will taste the ELV's- God help us if the referees follow their colleagues in the SH and give us a similar game

- Malcolm Lewis

So, after all these years of cheering to the rafters those 5m catch-and-drives, of forward power expressed through mauls and a decent line-out, we were all wrong. We weren't enjoying it. It wasn't proper rugby. How utterly foolish we all now feel.

What we really needed all along was some super-duper running with ever fewer chances of front row 'units' being able to get in the way of all that lovely running. Yes, that's it, we needed more running. And tries. Lots and lots of lovely tries. Lovely running and lovely tries. Then we can be properly entertained, not like that mock entertainment we only think we are enjoying now.

IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said the agreements reached at the council meeting in Dublin on Thursday amounted to a "vindication" of the IRB's vision.

Change vindication to indictment and vision to ineptitude, and that would sum up how I feel. Betrayed would be another good word. When Marathons became Snickers the world entered a very nasty phase. Yesterday it got worse.

- Paul Michaels

This is the beginning of the end. If these new "rules" are implemented, we may as well bring the Rugby League clubs back in to the fold.

Forming a maul is now a complete waste of time and the line out is going to be a shambles.

I note that Bryan Habana has said "IT HAS CREATED A GAME WHICH IS CLOSER TO RUGBY LEAGUE". As for M. Lapasset's positive comments, any man that put up with the coaching ideas of Bernard Laporte cannot be taken seriously. The most laughable suggestion is that further ELVs are "trialled" in one competition, apparently the European Challenge Cup.

Always something of a second-rate competition, I can see coaches putting out teams full of youngsters in order to keep their senior players from getting involved in a game with a different set of rules, thereby further debasing the competition.

- David Webber, Stotfold, England

I feel the game is definitely not broken so why fix it - i love the game as it is. If union becomes like league - like many others i will just stop watching. I hope the Northern Hemisphere teams consider the possibility of breaking away from the IRB.

- James Cooper

This is idiotic what's wrong with the game at the moment. Look at the Northern Hemisphere where the game is thriving, these law changes are farcical and are depowering the game we know and love so nations who do not favour the 15 man game and prefer the 13 are shaping the game for one and all it is a joke!

- Simon, London

I applaud the IRB for introducing law variations that are designed to make the game faster and more entertaining. I cannot understand the detractors that seem only concerned about keeping the traditions alive. I am sure that many of these guys have not even witnessed the laws in operation in the Super 14 and form opinions about the new laws because they do not fall into the traditional strengths of the northern unions game - namely, slowing down ruck ball at every opportunity (with the use of hands extensively I might add), kicking for position, stealing opposition line-outs and mauling to the goal-line. I fail to see how that is entertaining. I cannot see Rugby progress the game as a worldwide entertainment package unless changes are made to make the game faster, flow better and still keep the variation of tactics alive. We cannot be afraid to make changes for the good of the game because we might be afraid that we can't keep up with the pace of play or have players dynamic enough to thrive under a quicker, more involved spectacle.

The basic issue for rugby remains the lack of clear-cut rules at ruck and maul time and the offside line at the ruck. Too many times I see players off their feet at a ruck still at work disrupting and slowing the ball. Why is it that players can line up at the side of the ruck ahead of the offside line to defend the pick and drive? Too often I see the first receiver get man and ball at the same time, and the man at the base of a ruck pick the ball up and get tackled before he can even lift his head. I have heard it said that all we need is closer scrutiny at the rucks and the offside line and all will be good. I agree that is needed but assure you that tighter enforcement of the existing rules is not enough.

We can be thankful that Football is the pedantic, static game it is, otherwise we would all be in trouble.

- Darrel Fergus, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

All the ludicrous changes have been thrown out. All the sensible changes have been incorporated. Obviously democracy has worked within the IRB.

- Eifion Jones, Kettering

The proposed rules seem a travesty, I cannot see the point and it will devalue the game as we know and enjoy it. I for one won't go to a match with the ELV's in place.

- Padraig Dunne, Dublin

Driven by Money & TV with no consideration for the GRASSROOTS of the game. Most of these changes will change the way the game is viewed by the TV audience (make it easier to understand). Quite how I don't quite see. Some are common sense, such as the corner flag issue and possibly the restriction on kicking for touch from the 22m.

Some of the others I don't see the reasoning in; Collapsing the maul has gone from being dangerous play to acceptable in one foul swoop.

At an elite level the input of the TJ is common sense, but the implementation of the 5m offside line at the scrum whilst well intentioned will at the lower levels be difficult to enforce. What happens when Old Muddiedoafs 6th are playing and the referee is a club referee (possibly an experienced player but not a qualified ref), he now has 3 different offside lines to think about, rear heel, 5m & 10m at different times and without the benefit of TJs to assist, hardly simplification.

Of course there will be many clubs where their teams at the lower levels (5ths, 6ths & 7ths) will just agree with the equivalent opposition to ignore the ELV and play the laws they know on a game by game basis.

Somehow I think that the IRB, the supposed custodians of the game gave absolutely no regard to the grassroots when they cobbled this little lot together.

At some clubs, with players playing into their 40s and 50s, the current laws allow a variety in the game plan, this attempt to speed the game up may well drive players away from the game, not just as players but as coaches and administrators, as many older players contribute because they still play.

The game is for the players so don't muck about with it, it wasn't broke so don't fix it.

- Sobraon, Maidstone, UK

The ELV's, or the majority of, have been in operation in the Southern Hemisphere during the current Super 14 season yet the crowd number, TV viewings & general interest in the sport in the SANZA nations has been low, far lower then in any previous years. Yes there seems to be some form of 'Hang Over' from the World Cup but having spend three weeks catching up with friends in NZ last month this certainly isn't the whole story. The ELV's also had an effect on viewing numbers with far more people turning to the NRL because its better type of 'Run & Bash' Rugby which is what these ELV's have seemed to turn the game into. Rugby in the Northern Hemisphere has never been stronger - there is no need to change the rules that vastly. Offside being 5m from the Scrum maybe, clarifying the odd law here & there yes but not to take mauling away from the game & to allow players to get away with offences knowing only a Free Kick will be awarded. Its change for change's sake & a sad day for World Rugby.

- Peter Crook

I'm unhappy to learn that the ELV's will now enter a phase of global trials on all levels. I'm from Canada, and I think our club game here will suffer greatly if we're asked to use the new laws.

I think under the current laws the game involves myriad tactics, and is a game for all shapes and sizes. Although perhaps a quicker game, what I have seen in the super 14 this year far more closely resembles rugby league: more straightforward play, and a predisposition toward large, very fit, crash ball runners.

Sure, some of the ELV's may be positive for all, and others simply put into law what is already in practice, but in general, I am opposed to the constant tinkering with the laws. Rugby is a beautiful game that we've played here for more than 100 years; who thought it needed to be fixed?

- Scott Crockatt, Canada

It just seems as though these new set of rules heavily favour the southern hemisphere nations, I wonder if its anything to do with the Australia and New Zealand faltering in the World Cup.

We all now that the Rolling Maul was perfected by England and France and now they will be able to legally take it down!? Its an absolute travesty! They keep barking on about how the game should favour the attacking team, and that rugby is now dominated by defence. So, why make rules that favour the defending team?

And in regards to the majority of penalties being down graded to Free Kicks, I actually think this might improve the game. It depends really, one thing which would be shocking if that the attacking play to become like League! No skill involved at all Bish Bosh! For 5 tackles and then grubber.

I hope sincerely hope that doesn't happen.

And also I sincerely hope that, as these new rules favour the southern hemisphere teams, I hope that the northern hemisphere dominate the next few World Cups, just to prove that your gonna need more than rule changes to hinder us!

- Matt Lowdon

Aam totally against the proposed ELVs. Quite apart from the fact that there are far too many of them to be trialled at the same time, their sole purpose seems to be to destroy what makes union attractive to the vast majority of its supporters, ie its core complexity and the diversity of playing styles. I don't pretend to understand the minutiae of every union law or every referee decision but it enhances the game greatly for me to have to think about what is going on. It may suit the southern hemisphere to play a simpler game more akin to league but certainly in the northern hemisphere we want union to remain union. Multiple boring free kicks cannot possible replace the excitement of serious contest at the breakdown. This years Premiership and, even more so, the Heineken cup competition, have delivered some simply cracking games, using the whole gamut of strategies and skills that union has to offer. It works and it's wonderful! Leave it be.

- Jackie Snell

I have watched the new ELV's put into practice in the southern hemisphere games now since their introduction. During that same time I have also view the games in the north that are being played without them. To be perfectly honest I don't see a huge difference. What I mean by that is that the south still plays a more expansive wide open game and the north does not.

The southern teams are simply playing at a faster pace now than ever before. Overall, I like the new ELV's but until we see how they will take in the north we won't really know if they are good for the game or not. That is the real acid test as they will be a much bigger change there then they were down south. The northern game will change much more and seeing if that is good or not, well only time will tell.

I like a fast pace game but I do understand that you are taking away the strong points of the northern style and playing more to the style of the southern teams with the new laws. Hard to say if it is fair or not but I do think it will be more entertaining.

- Mark Glynn, Chicago, USA

As a regular viewer of Super 14 rugby I can only say that the ELV's have, in my opinion, improved the game. Certainly as a spectator, I for one, am pleased.

To make my point I'll try (without referring to the ELV list) to comment on the biggest differences I see between last year and this year.

a) Fewer kicks directly into touch. A result of the new "passing back into the 22" rule. Results in fewer line-outs. And line-outs are really not all that exciting. Coupled with this is the improvement in the quick line out. This has been used by quite a few teams to exploit the space created when the ball is kicked down-field. Net result is that the ball is in play longer, and teams are not quite as keen to simply punt for the corners. This is advantageous to "smaller" players - emphasising skill and speed over bulk.

b) Free-kicks instead of penalties for most ruck infringements. This has seen a reduction in the number of penalty kicks being taken in each game. Although towards the end of the game the free-kicks are turning into full-arm penalties anyway for "repeat infringments". Net result is that the ball is in play quicker, although many teams are now opting for a scrum if the element of surprise is lost.

c) Backline 10m back from scrum. This allows the attacking backline to get over the advantage line easier, effectivly reducing the ability of the loose forwards to defend in the backline from the first phase. This opens up more space for the backs, which in turn means backs are aiming for space rather than just bashing it up into a wall of loose-forwards. To be fair not all teams have started exploiting this advantage yet - especially those teams with a backline selected for defensive, rather than offensive capability.

For the rest there's been no real impact. Offside after a tackle happens now and then, but no more than any other offside. And is policed with the same inconsistance that all offside rules get.

Have the tries skyrocketed? Have the scores? Nope. And I'm not sure the rules are designed to increase the scores. They're designed to keep the game going, to allow the small guy back into the game, and to hopefully eliminate the pure power approach which rugby has become. There needs to be a balance between the forwards and the backs, or we end up with 15 flankers (and rugby-league.)

Before those in the north slate the ELV's, perhaps it would be a good idea to give them a try. Not just at international and national level, but also at (amateur) club and school level. Clearly conditions are different in the north, and so without trying them out it's hard to say what their effect will be. But after witnessing the 6 nations and tri-nations (and world-cup) of recent years, a move towards fewer kicks, less brutishness and a reward for small, quick, skillful players would not be the worst thing in the world.

Let's be honest, with each rule change there are those who pine for the past. But do we really want to go back to the era of 10 man rugby? Would the rules of 1980, if applied to the game today make it a better, or worse game? In 5 years time when we look back what will we say about the rules of 2007? And how will we know if we don't try.

- Bruce Johnson, Cape Town

I used to play rugby to a reasonable standard - nothing special - but hung my boots up 6 years ago when my son was born. I remain a fanatical supporter of the game going to most home games of my team (Plymouth Albion) and supporting England at Twickenham and in the World Cup. My six year old son now plays tag rugby at a local club (and loves every minute of it) and I have become the manager of the under 7s team. I suspect my story is similar to 99% of true rugby fans (played a bit, support a lot, and love the sport and everything it stands for).

I recently watched a super 14 game on a Saturday morning and whilst I watched I realised that my son may never have a chance to play and watch the game that I know and love. It was heartbreaking. The IRB do not own this game they are looking after it for our children. The proposed changes to the ruck, maul and penalty/free kick would change the game irreparably - your correspondent Andy Jackson makes the point much more eloquently than me but I have not met one person yet in favour of these changes.

It remains to be seen what will happen at the meeting today but if these changes are brought in the game of Rugby Union is over. I shall be handing in my season ticket and I won't be the only one.

- Richard

The ELVs have not changed the fabric of what we all love about rugby. I wonder how strongly the opinions of those from the UK (particulary England) would be if England lost to Tonga and failed to qualify for the quarter finals. Remeber, the ELVs were not hatched following the 2007 RWC but well before. Furthermore, talk of the scrum being devalued, or setpiece importance, is grossly inflated by members of the English broadsheet press. If I were coach of a team with a dominant scrum I would welcome the changes on a simple selfish point of view given the evidence of this year's Super 14. To think otherwise would be to ignore all evidence from the field as opposed to taking for granted the words of a concerted UK press corps.

- Angus, Brisbane

I'm getting flippin sick of you bagging the ELVs all the time. Why is it you have to put on your site such biasness towards the southern hemisphere. If you really wish for the public to make their own decisions about the laws. Then quit trying to influence them with your stupid, pitiful articles. The game of rugby has not changed. The real change s now there aren't so many games being won by penalty kicks. If you wanted to kick the ball so much play soccer!! Make your mind for yourself for the new rules sure, but stop having such a negative influence when the IRB are trying to help the game and all you are doing is creating negativity and unneeded controversy!

- Jenni Harris, New Zealand

How about you NH wallahs giving the ELV's a chance by actually trialling them yourselves before you rip them to shreds. It may open your eyes again to some tremendous innovations that will enhance RUGBY as a WORLDWIDE SPORT!

- Erehwon, New Zealand

These rules are merely designed to

a) make life easier for the Aussies national side, who can't put together a decent front row

b) make life easier for the fair-weather supporter by changing our beloved sport into rugby league

- Adrian

Last Sunday I watched a taped game between the Hurricanes and the Cheetahs,a fast moving game thanks to the new rules being applied. When the game was finished I watched the game between London Irish and Toulouse. These two games convinced me that the new rules being tried are the way of the future.The Northern Hemisphere game was low,laboured,static with the ball rarely in play in other words boring. I noted that the high standard of fitness of the Super 14 sides even though the Cheetahs are pretty hopeless.

- Gerry Portegys, NZ

Isn't it amazing that the countries most opposed to the ELV's i.e. Wales and England, haven't even trialled them at a high level, where as the countries most in favour are the ones were the ELV's a have been trialled.

My point is that the ELV's obviously work. Once people play under them they realise how much better they are.

Evidence of this is the comparison of this year's Super 14 to the previous few years. This year's version is much, much better, due to the ELV's.

Every game I have seen under the ELV's has been a good spectacle. They have been fast and skilful, but not at the sacrifice of key parts of our game. For example, due to the defensive line being back 5 meters now, scrums are more important than ever, and many teams are electing to take a scrum when given a free kick. A good scrum is as important as ever.

To be honest, as a rugby fan I'm sick of reading the uneducated criticism of the ELV's, sometimes bordering on lies, that emanates from the British press.

- James Pearce, Australia

Will you Northern Hemisphere people settle down. It is not a plot and NOT ALL THE ELV'S NEED TO BE ADOPTED! There are just as many, if not more scrums and even here down south we don't like all the rule changes, so stop treating it like a conspiracy.

Even Ackford in his rant about Australian cheating laws agreed that the passing back into the 22 and 5m from the scrum laws are good ideas. There are too many free kicks but some of the rules make the game a greater contest and if you actually trial them before slandering them you will see that. Also the rules were not devised by only southern hemisphere teams but also European experts. There have been more rolling mauls in the S14 (even the S14 hasn't dared trial the collapsing rule), more scrums and greater importance on kicking accuracy. All the S14 coaches also agree that there is a far greater emphasis on skill at the breakdown as well (possibly the key area that allowed England to knock Australia out of the World Cup) while giving backs some more room to actually execute running rugby.

In the end some of the changes are very good, some are bad, but the key is to look at each one individually and stop screaming that the sky is falling before you even trial the damn things.

- Hayden Lilienthal, Australia

As a kiwi I agree with some of the criticisms of the elves. Too many short arm penalties for my liking. I don't really see a problem with the speed of the game under the current rules (pre elves). I cannot understand the obsession with trying to speed the game up. Having said that any attempt to try and bring more objectivity to the refs call at the breakdown should be applauded. It is a pity therefore that in the current Super 14 "trial' of the elves the hands in ruck option was not trialed. I would have like to have seen this and its effect on bringing consistency to this aspect of the game. The elves as they are currently implemented in the Super 14 have not achieved this. Therefore I give the thumbs down to the elves on trail in the super 14 except maybe the 5 metre rule at scrum time. This is a definite advantage to teams with a strong scrum and is the one improvement to the game under the super 14 elves.

- Glenn Gerrard, New Zealand

If you are counting votes - count mine as against these new laws. I couldn't agree more with the opinions expressed recently on this website. As a recreational player for the last 33 years and an age-grade coach for last 6 (boys and girls), I see these new laws as a step (a massive step) away from the game I have known. It will indeed become a version of rugby league. All straight ahead crashes with no nuance or tactical play, and little reliance on the set piece, favouring a onesize fits all type player. If the southern hemisphere feels they must go this route for professional reasons - to amp up the try count and garner stronger TV viewership - then fine - but why does the north have to endorse this travesty, and why do the age grades or recreational level players on either side of the equator have to follow suit? Why not make the Super 14 a unique competition like Seven's rugby - a version of the real thing - but really just a sideshow spectacle for the TV audience (think of it as a new code halfway between union and league), and when the SH countries come together to play international tests etc they revert to the real union game minus the ELV's. This seems like a reasonable compromise which will accommodate all parties, and most of all not destroy our beloved game.

- Craig Inward, Stouffville, Canada

Having watched S14's this year in detail, have decided the games deteriorate into a sport close to touch rugby in form, maybe not is substance, and the referees have a devil of a time getting the decisions right on both sides.

- Josey Anstey, USA

First of all, I've watched so much rugby in my time and have watched almost every Super14 match this year, and I must say that not much has really changed. There are a few 'tweeks' to certain laws and I think they are morally or justifiably a good evolution.

Let's face it, even the farce in soccer when anyone could kick it back to the goalkeeper for him to pick up rule has been long abandoned; and I believe passing back into the 22m deal is a close parallel. The 5m offside line at scrumtime is also a positive change, but this law will not 'really' apply in Britain because they only kick the ball anyway.

I think the breakdown laws need more trials and with some different interpretations, but the notable significance of it is to take the biggest grey area in rugby away or off as pressure on the referee. In other words, a 3-point opportunity to decide a game is somewhat alleviated with a free-kick instead.

There are deeper issues here however. To me, the IRB is a British 'old-boys' club that needs to change their attitudes. The rest of the world knows this, and now they are in danger of being abandoned, and quite rightfully so, by the entire southern hemisphere - including Argentina.

Secondly, I predict the SANZAR teams to belt the 6N's in a month's time and the primary basis with be the ELV's. It will only benefit them because they have been forced to quickly decide the breakdown either way and the initial impact will be very crucial and has always been the area where the southern hemisphere reigned supreme.

So I predict that the ELV's will not get accepted (atleast most and all the main ones) by the British teams. I then predict that certain significant unions will form their own IRB with other members. Yes, rugby is at its biggest crossroad!

- The Balls, Canada

It is simply sad and yet utterly typical that those in the North waste energy criticising development and innovation; this before even trialling the ELVs for themselves.

After the worst Rugby World Cup to date: a celebration of cynicism, defence and execrable refereeing rugby has been left in need of either change or just ending as a game. Enter the ELVs encouraging the use of the ball (heaven forbid scream the Northern masses - Stephen Jones' 'tache shrivels away faster than summer in the UK). An end to dinosaur rugby? What could be better. Relevance to the scrums (at long last scrums have meaning again...perfect). Games aren't won or lost because someone put a foot wrong in a lineout... this is a bad thing?

The ELVs must be trialled at all levels without further delay. The unworkable ELVs will be discarded (S14 didn't want them all - and fair enough). None of the fans of S14 under the ELVs would try to claim that all the rules are keepers. Since refs were given too much voice and the ruck was turned into it's present mess, that has remained a blight on the game. The ELVs DO NOT deal adequately with the ruck - The boot will do this, a few tickles on the back will discourage the likes of Burger, Smith and Corry from ball-killing.

With the exception of the ruck and maul ELVs the rest seem ideal and one suspects will be approved of by players (if not the old farts who have far too much say in the game). And all advovates are asking for is a trail. It has been trialled now in the world's premier Rugby competition. Now let the European competition conduct a trial taking on board what has been learnt down South; perhaps towards even improved innovations.

With the Heineken Cup now being played and coached by antipodeans it seems only a matter of time before this becomes the case anyway.

- Justin Lindsay, New Zealand

You are 120% right about your summary of the ELVs and the IRB. For want of a better word, tactics. Usually, every year, the excitement mounts for me as the Super 14 draws near, I don my Sharks jersey and head down to the pub for a few pints and watch 2, 3 or 4 games at a time.

I did that once this year. In the end, I gave it up and watched some Top 14 game instead. I found myself watching Toulouse play London Irish and shaking with anticipation with the score at 21-15 and memories of last year's Super 14 final going through my head. And then I reflected sadly that I am unlikely to see such a thing ever again. In the Super 14 today, gone is the art of kicking, gone is the art of scavenging for ball, gone is the art of the turnover, gone is the art of the line-break. Gone is the art of thinking phases ahead. Gone is the art of creating space. Gone is the art of playing rugby union.

I truly hope that the IRB get some sense into their heads and abandon this pretense at milking the game for more cash. But alas, I cannot forsee this happening, and therefore all I can hope to do is record as many games of rugby (or what is left of it in the Northern Hemisphere), and show them to my son when he gets older. I'll say : look son, this is rugby. I'm afraid that he would probably reply : hey dad, did that player with only a #10 on his back actually kick the ball? Why would he do that?

- a Bok supporter in France

I am very much for the new rules. They take away from the ref the long arm penalties which saw so many games decided by penalties which were questionable at best. With a short arm penalty the ref is still managing the game but the outcome is within the players control. As an aside, it speeds up the play and forces teams to run the ball. I am all for the changes.

- David Lines

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