First glimpse of the Super 14 ELVs

This weekend saw the first round of the 2008 Super 14 competition, and the first opportunity to see the Experimental Law Variations is use.

The ELVs are intended to speed the game up, keep the ball in play for longer, and ultimately allow more tries to be scored.

From what I could see, the first round of matches were mostly low-scoring affairs, riddled with mistakes, endless kicking exchanges, and cynical offences that were only punished by free kicks.  Miles Harrison commented that he “enjoyed the tennis match” between the Cheetahs and the Lions.

What are your thoughts? Are the ELVs good for the game?

19 thoughts on “First glimpse of the Super 14 ELVs

  1. It’s very early and the teams will have to get used to them but the first weekend of matches was shocking. Compare the premiership this weekend to the super 14 and the fact that they are even bothering to try to come up with new rules is laughable when the existing ones create matches like Bath v Wasps.
    Super 14 teams were giving away free kick after free kick and there wasn’t even a hint of a yellow card. No-one dared to kick to touch in case the ball had been passed into their 22 or the oppo could take a quick throw so aimless ping-pong coupled with running from one side of the pitch to the other with no real penetration created some horrible matches.
    I’ll reserve final judgement for now but i don’t have much hope.

  2. Didn’t get much of a chance to see them in action, and while they ELVs did seem to speed the game up a bit, they would have to do something about the over-kicking and possibly also encourage yellow cards to discourage persistent offending, whether for free-kick offences or otherwise.

  3. That’s exactly what worries me about changing the laws – there will always be other areas that need tinkering with as a result.

    Players and coaches will find ways to exploit them, and the IRB will find itself constantly trying to plug holes in a leaking bucket – the moment they close something off (such as too many kicks at goal) something else will spring up that they need to fix (such as cynical play giving away free kicks) and then the game will change beyond recognition.

    As Spike says, Bath v Wasps was a classic – why do we need to change the rules?

  4. The call to make the game faster with less stoppages on TV, the result is the EVL. If you add up the minutes where we saw a mix of forwards and backs lined up against each other in two horizontal defensive lines ( that negated each other) then you can conclude that the execution of these laws by the teams was AWEFUL. When a free kick is awarded one can chose a scrum, or even start a rolling mall, or quick tap. The first two allow forwards to be forwards and backs to be backs, the latter is easily defended by long defensive line. The game must be identified by SET PIECE PLAY, A CHESS GAME, TACTICS, FITNESS AND SKILL. Solely speeding a game is called basket ball. YUK !!

  5. If Robbie Deans is pleased with the new ELVs I will give them a chance. And Ping Pong Rugby is exactly what the All Blacks vs France game was without the ELVs.

    Let us wait. Let us see. It takes time to find the proper way to face the new laws. Choosing scrums instead of free kicks should be an option for powerful scrummaging teams. There’s a lot to be discovered yet.

  6. Ian, couldn’t agree more. And Robbie Deans is pleased with them because he is about to take over an international team who would benefit hugely from depowering the game and making it as much like rugby league as possible.

    These ELVs are purely a reaction to the way the game was played in the latter stages of the World Cup. They were games played under extreme pressure where the teams played risk free rugby. While they did not produce free-flowing spectacles, they contained much of the confrontation which is so great about rugby.

    It was the pressure, not the laws, which led to the type of rugby we saw. The type of rugby you see between World Cups is often fantastic – let’s not change the entire way the game is played just so that 3 games played in 1 week once every 4 years are a little bit more open.

    Rugby is not supposed to be easy – it’s a contact sport and you see time and again that well-executed play can find space. Taking out the contact and creating space artificially is a joke as it changes what the game is all about. Why don’t we also ban tackling?

  7. No no no, why don’t we have two fewer players on each side, laughable “scrums” (I’m using the term very loosely) which only happen when the ball goes in to touch and give each team six tackles each before the ball gets turned over!

    Then, when players get tackled, the tackler could try and hold them down while they hump the ground in a peculiarly comical way.

    Oh no, hang on, that’s already been done. Let’s stick to union being like union eh? Joking apart, I agree that any experiment needs a bit of time, but I’m with you Stuart on the reasons for the conservative knockout phases of the World Cup. You get all these people banging on about how the game needs to be more attractive to bring new fans in, but the laws of the game and style of England’s play didn’t stop 13 million people watching the final did they?

  8. Well, Stuart, it’s not me the one who says the ELVs are going to save rugby. I am just asking for a little more time to have a clear picture.

    Rob, I don’t like league much nor I want rugby to ressemble league at all. But I reckon that the way the game has been played during round 1 will have little in common to the game played at round 6.

    Besides, these very players playing under the ELVs shall afterwards offer a bit o the non ELVs version game during the Tri Nations. Why don’t we wait until then?

    Just one month ago at Keohane’s site the talk was that the south african sides would get the most of the ELVs due to their powerful scrums. Now, Habana says it looks like league… Don’t you feel that there is still a lot to be uncovered under these ELVs?

  9. Quite possibly – they might make a fantastic spectacle but it won’t be rugby union. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it and rugby is certainly not broken. The only countries seriously interested in them are NZ and Australia and it doesn’t take a genius to work out why.

    Not interested.

  10. Yeah, I’m openminded about things sesenta y cuatro – agreed you can tell virtually nothing after one set of games. All I’m saying is that like Stuart, I don’t think we needed these changes.

    That said, they’re here for the duration of the Super XIV (and are they in for the Tri Nations too? Think I’ve read somewhere that they are) so we’ll just have to wait and see.

    What’s interesting though is that there weren’t any such complaints when the ELVs were first tested at student level as far as I’m aware. They apparently led to more tries and the ball being in play for longer. All just backs up what Stu and I have said about the way players behave under pressure at a high level of rugby.

    I was always dubious when I heard that there was going to be an experiment to make the game flow better and it was being overseen by Paddy O’Brien!

  11. Some so called Experts are concerned that the World Cup finals to date have been dour tryless affairs, and not much of a spectacle. So they had a brainwave and decided to mess with our traditions and try and morph our once proud game into a glamourised game of league/touch footy!! World Cup finals will always be close affairs, and no matter how many rules they change, it will always be a tactical game without too much flair or risk. Look at world football. How many cup finals are won 4-3? You always get 10 men behind the ball and hope to eek out a goal from somewhere before the game goes into penalties. Do you see FIFA trying to sex up their game? No, and thats because most of the time its an open contest!
    The law makers are worried about player fatigue, well how many props will be able to last a full season without hitting the wall. The next rule will be for an interchange bench as in league, because players will need a rest every now and then during a game. Is that what we want? The tinkering with ‘our’ game has got to stop. It seems the only real reason they change them is so the broadcasters can make more money from our ‘product’! Look at some of the rugby played over the past few seasons. Can anyone say that the level and quality of the All Blacks v Lions series of 2005 wasn’t anything less then spectacular? It was brilliant!! And the French (when they feel like it) have some much flair that it makes the hair on the back of you neck stand up!!
    It infuriates me the the game has gone so far away from the traditional values, that myself and so many other fans are just losing interest as our thoughts and concerns are not listened to. Sorry folks, but I have had a gutsfull!!!
    Go to facebook.com and look for the protest group against the E.L.V’s and join others like me and add your name to the group. To those who like the new rules, fair play to you, but they are simply not for me.

  12. Three weeks now of the ELV’s, and i hope they become international rugby law and soon. The extra 5m for the defensive line has made the scrum a more potent attacking weapon – brilliant! scrums are what define union from league. The attacking (not the defending) team has the option of speeding up (or slowing) the game – quick lineouts and tap kicks to stretch the defence. Fewer 3 pointers and more tries (thank god). No more passing the ball back into the 22 and kicking for touch (people who compare this part of the game to chess obviously dont play chess). These rules will make rugby a better game than it is now.

  13. Watched my first full game under the ELVs over the weekend and it did nothing to change my view that their introduction would be disastrous. I have always been a little dubious about claims that union is becoming too much like League but under the new laws the similarities are too obvious to be ignored.

    Breakdowns were even less contested than normal for some reason with almost no defenders being committed. Instead they were strung out in a 15 man defensive line. There were almost no running lines and frankly it was one-paced and sterile with an awful lot of unproductive, lateral movement.
    Rugby union is a multi-dimensional game with ebb and flow and huge variation in the pace of the game because of the punctuation marks provided by contested breakdowns. The great thing about it is that it can be played in many different ways.
    We are told that the new laws will keep the ball in play for longer but what sort of a measurement is that? I’d rather see 40 minutes of quality than 60 minutes of unstructured mediocrity. The laws claim to speed the game up but actually achieve the opposite because players are unable to unleash any of their explosive dynamism after running around so much. Rugby League overcomes this by using rolling subs but I don’t think anyone is suggesting that union should go the same way.

    Essentially the ELVs dilute the close-quarter combat aspect of the game. This is a feature which is so much part of union that removing it is a dagger to the very nature of the sport. If you like a flowing but rather more one-dimensional game, and if you judge a match by how long the ball is in play, watch rugby league. If you like a multi-dimensional game which, while sometimes ugly, contains a clear ebb and flow and many shades of grey, watch rugby union.
    I am not criticising either game, but they are different and each have their own distinct attractions. Let’s keep it that way.

  14. I love the ELVs.(but no collapsing the maul please)
    What is obvious is that they will suit teams that are fitter and more skillful . At the moment I see no resemblence to rugby league. I also think that in having the laws trialed with the super 14 it provides a them against us metality between the North and South. If you read the irb site it is said that the S14 was easier to implement as the competition
    didn’t clash with others as does the Zurich with Heinekin Cup and EDF thingy.
    At the moment and we are talking very early days ,the new rules seem to be suiting NZ sides more than most and the paranoia with some Kiwis is that that will be the reason that they will not be implemented in full if at all.
    Previous opinion in the North was that S14 resembled tennis/basketball so I take current critism with a pinch of salt.
    Why not give it a go in the north and see how it affects your enjoyment of your own brand of ruby and then decide.

  15. I love the ELVs.(but no collapsing the maul please)
    What is obvious is that they will suit teams that are fitter and more skillful . At the moment I see no resemblence to rugby league. I also think that in having the laws trialed with the super 14 it provides a them against us metality between the North and South. If you read the irb site it is said that the S14 was easier to implement as the competition didn’t clash with others as does the Zurich with Heinekin Cup and EDF thingy.
    At the moment and we are talking very early days ,the new rules seem to be suiting NZ sides more than most and the paranoia with some Kiwis is that that will be the reason that they will not be implemented in full if at all.
    Previous opinion in the North was that S14 resembled tennis/basketball so I take current critism with a pinch of salt.
    Why not give it a go in the north and see how it affects your enjoyment of your own brand of ruby and then decide.

  16. Why should teams in the North “give it a go” when the majority of opinion is that we like the structure of the game as it currently stands?
    I don’t think the game’s broke so it don’t need fixing.

  17. The new rules are a result of collective input from the IRB since 2005/6 and not a southern driven directive as so often implied in the British press and these forums.
    These have been trialed all over the world at different levels with nothing but positive reaction from all concerned. No one has said the game was broken.

  18. After watching the Highlanders and Warratahs last weekend, I gotta saw that I don’t see the ELVs being overly successful in terms of enhancing rugby as a viewing experience.

    The simple fact of stop-start every few minutes of play was enough to destroy the game for me and I actually ended up switching channels now and then.

    In saying that, most people are resistant to change of any sort, and usually one or teams lead the way in using new laws to their advantage until it becomes common practice and their benefit is seen. (Like the No8 pulling back on the back of the scrum and timing the engage)

    But the amount of times the whistle blows for these ELVs has made the first 3 rounds of S14 look like netball. I agree it opens up space, but it is making the game both boring, and moving towards something very different to what it once was.

    I also think it makes the game harder to follow for people new to it. And I could have sworn that the IRB has a massive drive on to attract more people to the game, particularly in the USA.

    I vote no no no. I’ve been proved wrong before though.

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