International Rugby
Controversial ELVs to be scrapped
March 31, 2009

The contentious Experimental Law Variations (ELVs) that allow a maul to be pulled down and unlimited numbers at the lineout are set to be scrapped by the International Rugby Board.

The two controversial trials, along with the sanctions ELV that reduced many penalty offences to a free kick, are among those thrown out by the sport's governing body following a detailed review carried out this week.

Senior stakeholders from the international rugby community, including a number of the world's top coaches, referees and administrators, debated the results of the global trial at a two-day conference in London and as a result a total of 10 ELVs were recommended to be passed into full law.

They include the five-metre off-side line at the scrum and the pass-back rule, which prevents players from making any ground with a direct kick to touch if the ball has been played into their own 22.

The four-year programme will culminate at a meeting of the IRB Council in May where any proposed ELVs will require a two-thirds majority to be accepted permanently into the Laws of the Game. Due to the high-level nature of this week's conference it is expected that the recommendations - both for and against - will be endorsed in full at that meeting.

The sanctions ELV, trialled only in the southern hemisphere, may yet get a reprieve having been sent away for further review to see if it can be adopted in some form. However, it is unlikely to return before Rugby World Cup 2011 which represents a major blow for the southern hemisphere who had campaigned hard for its inclusion but failed to find support for their cause amongst the leading European nations who refused to trial it.

The aim of the Conference was to assess the impact of the global ELV trial and the additional variations being trialled by the SANZAR Unions, as well as to evaluate other ELVs being trialled by individual Unions. The Conference was hosted by the IRB Rugby Committee and Laws Project Group (LPG) who drew up the original ELVs.

"We held a positive and constructive meeting at which all stakeholders were able to share their opinions on each of the ELVs. This was an important milestone for the ELV programme and it was crucial that robust discussion was entered into and that all positive and negative impacts of the ELVs were raised," said IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset.

"Naturally opinions differed in several areas of the ELV programme. The IRB regards this as a healthy and positive state of affairs as the Game's Laws have always and should continue to allow coaches and players to interpret Law so that different styles of play can be employed."

"The Unions tabled detailed research and analysis to support their views. Everyone had the opportunity to air their views. What was clear was that there was agreement on many aspects of the ELVs and a collective will to see a return to one set of Laws to govern the Game as soon as possible."

"This conference was not a decision-making meeting but at the end of the day the conference provided a set of collective recommendations on the ELVs to assist the IRB Rugby Committee in formulating its final recommendations for the IRB Council meeting on May 13. Council will then decide which ELVs, if any, should be fully integrated into Law," added Lapasset.

The Conference was the latest step in the extensive global ELV consultation and evaluation process. Attendees were also presented with Game analysis and statistical surveys from over 800 matches, involving more than 3,000 players, coaches and referees at the Elite and Participation levels of the Game from 15 IRB Member Unions.

"It is has been a long road since the genesis of the ELV programme at the Conference on the Playing of the Game in Auckland in January 2004 when national coaches and administrators gathered following Rugby World Cup 2003 to debate the state of the Game," said Lapasset.

"Collectively the participants requested that the IRB look into the Laws of the Game and mandated it to undertake a major review in areas such as the lineout, maul and sanctions, including turning penalties for technical offences into free kicks. The Laws Project Group was subsequently conceived, as were the Experimental Law Variations with initial trials starting in 2005."

"In the past Law changes were discussed in theory and implemented without on-field testing but importantly this ELV programme has included global practical trials. The entire process is now coming to an end and the IRB would like to sincerely thank its Member Unions for their participation in what has been an unprecedented review of the Laws of the Game," added Lapasset.

Recommendations for the IRB Rugby Committee:

The following is recommended to the Rugby Committee for adoption into Law:

Law 6 - Assistant Referees allowed

Law 19 - Kicking directly into touch from ball played back into 22 equals no gain in ground

Law 19 - Quick Throw permitted in any direction except forward

Law 19 - Positioning of player in opposition to the player throwing-in to be two metres away from lineout and the line of touch

Law 19 - Pre-gripping of lineout jumpers allowed

Law 19 - Lifting in the lineout allowed

Law 19 - Positioning of Receiver must be two metres away from lineout

Law 20 - Five-metre offside line at the Scrum

Law 20 - Scrum-half offside line at the Scrum

Law 22 - Corner Posts no longer touch in goal

The following is not recommended to the Rugby Committee for adoption into Law:

Law 17 - Maul - Head and Shoulders not to be lower than hips

Law 17 - Maul - Pulling Down the Maul

Law 19 - Freedom for each team to determine Lineout Numbers

Sanctions and Free Kicks (subsidiary recommendation for further examination)

Tackle/Ruck Infringements (subsidiary recommendation for ruling in law to be sought by a Union to clarify interpretation of current Law)

Other Union-specific ELVs

Up to 15 minutes half time - recommended to Rugby Committee for adoption into Law

Rolling substitutions for Community Game - recommended to Rugby Committee for adoption into Law

Use of Under 19 variations at the scrum for Community Adult Game where agreed by the Union - recommended to Rugby Committee for adoption into Law

Protocol to extend the remit of the TMO - not recommended to the Rugby Committee for adoption into Law

ELV Conference attendees:

Bernard Lapasset (IRB Chairman), Bill Beaumont (IRB Vice Chairman and Laws Project Group), Mike Miller (IRB Chief Executive), Oregan Hoskins (IRB Executive Committee), Giancarlo Dondi (IRB Executive Committee), Peter Boyle (IRB Executive Committee), David Pickering (IRB Executive Committee), Jean Pierre Lux (IRB Rugby Committee), Geraint John (IRB Rugby Committee), Francis Baron (RFU), Rob Andrew (RFU), Kevin Bowring (RFU), Chris Cuthbertson (RFU), Roger Lewis (WRU), Joe Lydon (WRU), Bob Yeman (WRU), Phillip Browne (IRFU), Eddie Wigglesworth (IRFU), Owen Doyle (IRFU), Roy McCombe (SRU), Frank Hadden (SRU), Colin Thomson (SRU), Andre Watson (SARU), Johan Prinsloo (SARU), Peter de Villiers (SARU), David Nucifora (ARU), John O'Neill (ARU), Robbie Deans (ARU), Santiago Phelan (UAR), Ricardo Garcia Fernandez (UAR), Marcelo Toscano (UAR), Steve Tew (NZRU), Neil Sorensen (NZRU), Steve Hansen (NZRU), Nick Mallett (FIR), Francesco Ascione (FIR), Carlo Casagrande (FIR), Rene Hourquet (FFR), Jean Louis Barthes (FFR), Didier Retiere (FFR), Bill Nolan (Laws Project Group Chairman), Dr Syd Millar (Laws Project Group), Bruce Cook (Laws Project Group/IRB Development Manager), Ian McIntosh (Laws Project Group), Dr Mick Molloy (Laws Project Group/IRB Medical Officer), Graham Mourie (Chairman of IRB Rugby Committee & Laws Project Group), Paddy O'Brien (Laws Project Group/IRB Referee Manager), Pierre Villepreux (Laws Project Group), Richie Dixon (Laws Project Group), Rod Macqueen (Laws Project Group), Steve Griffiths (IRB Head of Technical Services), Corris Thomas (IRB Game Analysis), John Feehan (6 Nations), Derek McGrath (ERC Rugby), Ian McGeechan (British & Irish Lions), Lyndon Bray (NZRU Referee Manager), Nigel Owens (IRB Referee), Rob Nichol (IRPA), Damian Hopley (IRPA).

*At the conclusion of the conference the FFR tabled its proposal to deal with the issue of uncontested scrums. This will be further discussed by the Rugby Committee and Unions will be able to give further feedback before the May 13 Council meeting.


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