It had been widely reported that there had been trials of propsed rule changes at an amateur level in Oxford and Stellenbosch this year, but I doubt anyone was expecting these changes so soon. Nevertheless they have now been sanctioned. For some, the changes may have come a little to swiftly.
Haven't we been here before?
The news will evoke memories of the now infamous Experimental Law Variations (ELVs), which were introduced in 2008. Those laws were trialled by the southern hemisphere in the then name Super 14, following a dour 2007 World Cup final between SA and England. The laws were meant to speed the game up and allow for a greater flow. Instead it resulted in some pretty crazy scorelines, turning the game on it's head (especially in the early rounds).
|The huge impact of the 2008 ELVs|
Therefore it is no surprise to see that the IRB have gotten up to the same old tricks again. It seems more a case of evolution rather than revolution on this occasion though. Only five law changes have been inked in, while some additional trials will take place too (for example, greater influence for TMO's).
The Five Laws to be introduced globally are:
1.The ball has to be used within five seconds of it being made available at the back of a ruck with a warning from the referee to use it. Sanction scrum.
2. For a quick throw in, the player may be anywhere outside the field of play between the line of touch and the player's goal line.
3. When the ball goes into touch from a knock-on, the non-offending team will be offered the choice of a lineout at the point the ball crossed the touch line, or a scrum at the place of the knock-on.
4. A team awarded a penalty or a free kick at a lineout may choose a further lineout. This is in addition to the scrum option.
5. A conversion kick must be completed within 90 seconds from the time that a try has been awarded.
The Additional Trials wil be:
1. A trial to extend the jurisdiction of the TMO to incidents within the field of play that have led to the scoring of a try, and foul play in the field of play, to take place at an appropriate elite competition in order that a protocol can be developed for the November tests.
2. A trial has been sanctioned for the November test window permitting international teams to nominate up to eight replacements in the match day squads, but the additional player must be a qualified front rower.
3. An amendment to enable sevens teams to nominate up to five replacements/substitutes during a match, from June this year.
Assessment of the New Laws and Trials
Some of these law changes are minor but it will be interesting to see just how rigidly the first law change is enforced. If we are genuinely going to see a scrum awarded every time the ball has been available at the back of a ruck for 5 seconds but not distributed, I think we are going to have a very stop-start game. The law change is obviously to stop teams killing the game in the latter stages by effectively holding on to the the ball for long periods without actually taking risks, but it could be misguided. The fact that the sanction will be a scrum too (something the IRB have failed to sort out for a long time now) might irritate some. Why not just make it a quick tap? We'll have to wait and see how effective that change is.
As for the 90 second rule for conversions, I genuinely don't think it will make that much diffrerence. Ever since Dominguez retired for Italy, you don't get kickers staring at the post for 5 minutes. The change though will surely please those angered by time-wasting antics. So I imagine it will be a rule that stays.
Some of the trials are the most interesting changes for me. For example the increased influence of TMO's. How often have we seen refs make a bad call because of the way they have phrased a question to the TMO? Too many times in my opinion. Extending the jurisdiction of TMO's seems like a pretty straight-forward decision to me and I would be suprised if it's not a hit. After all, if you're going to have them, you might as well make use of them. In fact I even outlined in a previous post a proposal for TMO's to decide whether a player which has been yellow carded deserves to have it upgraded to a red during the 10 minutes they are off the field.
|No more uncontested scrums?|
Finally it should be able to sort out the farce of uncontested scums. On too many occasions, teams have been denied their attacking weapon because of either a genuine front row injury or simply cynical professionalism.One would think having an extra prop on the bench should limit this possibility drastically..... unlees your Australian/ Irish and your playing the English.
In general I have to say i'm pretty pleased with the new laws. When I found out the IRB were going to introduce some new laws, I like most began to squirm in my seat slightly. Having now heard them in detail though, i'm sure the majority of them will have a positive impact on the game. They are certainly far less intrusive than the 23 ELV's trialled in 2008 anyway. The only law I question is the 5 second rule at the back of the ruck. I can understand it's introduction and their reasons, but policing it may lead to a lot of stoppages in play. Could the IRB be replacing an irritating aspect of the game with something which could potentially be a real blight?
What do you think of the new laws? As always comment below with your views!