Formed 2004 ... Herts 7s U14 Runners-up 2005 ... North Herts U14 team, Herts Youth Games 2005 runners-up (coached by Letchworth)... Herts Superteams U14 Runners-up 2005 ... Herts SuperTeams "Fairplay" winners 2006 ... Rochford 10s U17 Champions 2006 ... East Midlands 10s U17 Runners-up 2007 ... East Midlands 10s U17 "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... National 10s U17 5th place and "Fairplay" winners 2007 ... Herts 7s U17 Plate runners-up 2007 ... National 7s U17 Plate winners 2007 ... RFU "President's XV" Award winners 2007 ... Herts Superteams winners 2007 ... Midlands 10s U18 Runners-up 2008 ... National 10s U18 4th place 2008 ... North Herts U11 team, Herts Youth Games 2008 runners-up (coached by Letchworth girls) ... London and SE 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2008 ... Herts 7s U18s runners-up 2008 ... National 7s U18s quarter-finalists 2008 ... Gloucester City 10s U18 Bowl runner-up (6th) 2009 ... Worthing 10s U18 Plate runner-up 2009 ... National 7s U18 Plate winners 2009... Worthing 10s U15 Plate winners 2010... Worthing 10s U18 Shield winners 2010... Herts 7s U15 and U18 Bowl runners-up 2010... National 7s U18 Plate runners-up 2010...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

ELVs. Deadly dull - but could change the game you play

The laws of rugby union never stay still for long - if it is one thing that the IRB constantly do it is tinker around with them, either in the interest of safety or in order to make the game more "open" and so better to watch (but not necessarily play) - especially on TV. One reason for this is that rugby players are clever people and every time the IRB close one loop-hole, someone soon finds another!

Sometimes these changes are small things - like the changes in the law for the scrum which affected senior rugby in January. Sometimes its more major things like the points value for a try , or whether you can lift in line-outs (illegal until about ten years ago).

Currently doing the rounds is a series of "ELVs" or "Experimental Law Variations". The official documents on this are quite strikingly dull - eyes start to glaze over fairly quickly I find - but some carefully trained legal operatives armed with large quantities of caffeine and similar stimulants have now worked their way through it all.

Opinion seems divided - though there seems agreement that if these law changes do come in (and these things can happen quickly - in theory the new rules could come in as early as January 2008!) the change will be significant. In fact one referee's federation claim it will be "one of the most seismic changes in rugby's history". So what changes would we see if these rules came in? The answer is lots of things...
  • Many offences at the "breakdown" (tackles, rucks, mauls, etc.) which used to be penalties would become "free kicks" - only offside, not releasing, or preventing a player releasing would remain penalties
  • "Offside" laws would be "rigorously enforced" and would apply immediately a player was tackled, not when a ruck or maul forms
  • The ball could no longer be passed back in the 22 and kicked out on the full (line out from where the ball was kicked)
  • Mauls could be pulled down (so the end of the "rolling maul")
  • Handling in the ruck would be allowed [though rumour has it that this one may have been dropped]
  • Offside at the scrum would be 5m behind the back foot, not at the back foot as it is now.
  • Removal of corner flags (so touching the flag would no longer rule out a try)
  • Any number of players in a line out (though a minimum of two)
  • Extra "flag officials" to mark the new offside lines

Why change? Well, Bruce Cook from the IRB says:

"What we want is a game that's easier to understand for players, spectators and referees, and to avoid the outcome of games resting so heavily on referees. To the casual observer, rugby has a minefield of laws, many of which are regularly interpreted in different ways by referees across the globe at every level of the game.

If you take the breakdown, for example - that's the biggest problem area. There are a heap of offences that can take place. Depending on what the referee thinks and what his assessment is of the situation, he will decide on whether he gives a penalty or not. And you'll have one referee that will penalise a certain situation and one that will not."

There have already been some experiments with the rules (see this match report) - and it is significant that the IRB see these as being a success:

Just looking at the Scottish games you're no longer seeing penalties occurring left, right and centre at the breakdown, and you get the feeling referees are no longer driving the outcome of games.

Generally it seems that backs love these new rules, forwards hate them - see Total Flanker's comments and this article in the Guardian last month.

What effect will it have on our game?. I suspect most girls teams will be delighted, especially the typical backs-based "southern sides".

However we (at U17/18 level at least) have always been rather forwards based - less so in 2007/8 thanks to Mike's coaching and the influx of great backs from the U14s - but it is still where out strength lies. It is, to be honest, a major reason why we can hold our own (or more) against theoretically "better" opposition - rarely losing a lead once we have gained it in what are generally low-scoring games. It would prompt a significant rethink about how we play our games.

So - watch the rugby press. Things that old men in dull suits decide in remote committee rooms thousands of miles away so as to get a bigger TV audience could change your game.

And those of you going in the referee course next month - why not ask what the current position is?

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