Rugby – the times they are a-changin’… and so are the rules

2 11 2007

RugbyNo, not the lil’ pointy-eared guys, but Experimental Law Variations. They were used in the Mazda Australian Rugby Championship, and hopefully will be introduced into SANZA (South Africa, New Zealand, Australia). The ELVs are aimed at bringing a more free-flowing play to rugby.
Here they are, in the hope that we can discuss ’em a lil’…

  1. Touch Judges can indicate offside at the tackle by raising their flag horizontally in the direction of the offending team. This flag raising will be mirrored by the opposite TJ so as to provide visual assistance to the referee. The referee however is not obliged to act on the offence.
  2. Corner post, and post at corner of touch in goal and dead ball line are moved back 2 metres. This ensures consistency of touch along the entire length of the touch line and touch in goal line.
  3. When a defending player receives the ball outside the 22 metre line and passes, puts or takes the ball back inside the 22, the following can occur:
    a. If the ball is then kicked directly into touch, the lineout is in line with where the ball was kicked.
    b. If a tackle, ruck or maul is subsequently formed or an opponent plays the ball and the ball is then kicked directly into touch, the lineout is where the ball crossed the touch line.
  4. On a quick throw in, the ball can be thrown straight or backwards towards the defenders goal line, but not forward towards the opposition goal line.
  5. A player peeling off at the front of the lineout can do so as soon as the ball leaves the throwers hands.
  6. The receiver in a lineout must stand 2 metres from the lineout.
  7. The non throwing hooker does not have to stand between the 5 metre line and the touch line. They must conform to law wherever they stand.
  8. There is no maximum number of players in the lineout but there is a minimum of 2.
  9. Neither team determines numbers in the lineout.
  10. Pre-gripping is allowed.
  11. If a lineout throw is not straight, the option is a lineout or free kick (FK) to non throwing team. (Added 1 Oct).
  12. Breakdown of the breakdown?Players entering the breakdown area must do so through the gate. RIGIDLY APPLIED
  13. Immediately the tackle occurs there are offside lines.
  14. The offside lines run parallel to the goal lines through the hindmost part of the hindmost player at the tackle.
  15. A tackled player must immediately play the ball and may not be prevented from playing the ball by any player who is off their feet. (Added 1 Oct).
  16. Any other player playing the ball at the breakdown must be on their feet. (Added 1 Oct)
  17. If the ball is unplayable at the breakdown, the side that did not take the ball into contact will receive a FK.
  18. If the ball is received directly from a kick and a tackle occurs immediately, and the ball becomes unplayable, the FK is given to the team who received the kick.
  19. There are only 3 penalty offences (not including dangerous play) at the breakdown:
    a. Offside for not coming through the gate.
    b. Offside where defenders are in front of the last man on their side of the breakdown. i.e. the offside line.
    c. Players on the ground preventing playing of the ball.
  20. Repeated infringements can be dealt with as per current law.
  21. A scrum option is available for all FKs.
  22. Dangerous play will not be tolerated. Eg. Diving over the breakdown.
  23. The half back should not be touched unless he has his hands on the ball.
  24. Mauled…Defending players can pull down the maul.
  25. Players joining the maul must do so through the gate. RIGIDLY APPLIED.
  26. If a maul becomes unplayable, the team not in possession at the start of the maul receives a FK.
  27. The ‘truck and trailer’ is no longer an offence.
  28. The offside line for players who are not in the scrum and who are not the teams scrum half, is 5 metres behind the hindmost foot of the scrum.
  29. For all offences other than offside, not entering through the gate, and Law 10-Foul Play, the sanction is a FK.

I especially like the ELVs concerning the breakdown, and mauls. I think that these will have HUGE impact on the way the game is played. I don’t like the ‘RIGIDLY APPLIED’ addendum, as I think all game rules should be done so… they are rules of play, not suggestions, and as such should all be adhered to.
I think more needs to happen re. adjudication of the game… but this is undoubtedly a step in the right direction to bring rugby into the 21st century…

Really encourage commentary on this… but I’ll hazard a bet that most comments will fall into 2 groups – positive ones from Southern Hemisphere fans, and negative from Northerners… time will tell.

ELVs can be found at

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8 responses

2 11 2007
Grant Kerwin

I can’t say I am against any of these rule changes. I can see that these ELVs will make for a better game. Perhaps some of them will be controversial but at the end of the day some of the rules now are argumentative. So if it is good for rugby it is good for me.

2 11 2007

you have to applaud any changes aimed at impacting positively on the game. How well the rules are applied (rigidly???) will be the acid test, as may the ways in which players are coached to circumvent them.
The introduction of the sin bin was supposed to cut down on the number of cynical penalties, professional fouls and other instances of foul play. It was intended that a player killing the ball in a try scoring position would be sent to the sin bin to have a joly good think about what he had done, while his team mates struggled on with 14 players. Unfortunately, players are still commiting professional fouls with no fear of being sin binned until the ref has a chat to the skipper after the 39th infraction and says “that’s it, the next one is going” and even then he is usually bluffing!
However, tidying up the breakdown and the maul should make a very positive impact. Interestingly, players in the ARC apparently loved the new rules, even though they were coming off the paddock totally shagged (as it were).
The next rule to address is the drop goal – make it worth 1 point as in league so that it can break a tie, but not be used instead of playing rugby because it is impossible to defend against. England would still have the 03 RWC with this system, while SA would not have beaten the Wallabies in this year’s tri nations unless they were prepared to play instead of taking pot shots.
I would watch the game no matter what rules they implemtn, but hopefully this will attract some new punters through the gates and continue to see expansion of the game they play in heaven.

5 11 2007

I love the change to being able to pull down mauls – one of the most riduculous parts of the game is a rolling maul (I know NH posters will bite my head off for saying it) but in reality a rolling maul is one player being shepherded by 7 others and performing a continous ‘truck and trailer’ movement but he gets penalised for neither of these offences!

We will see an awful lot of up and under kicks aimed to land just outside the 22 with the new rules. Hope it doesn’t become too much like league which seems to be like a lolly scramble for the ball.

Overall I think the new rules will encourage a faster and more open style of rugby which has to be good. Mark me down as ‘for’ the changes. 🙂

17 07 2008
David G

So I just arrived in Sydney from Ireland recently and i have seen my first few ELV games. In my opinion these new rules are basically turning Rugby Union into Rugby league. Other poster have already mentioned the similarity… if you want league, watch league.The maul is one of the most technical and exciting aspect of the game. A well controlled maul rumbling 20 meters up the field is just as entertaining as any flying winger. It’s all about strength and skill and to say otherwise clearly shows a lack of understanding about the game. See this years European Cup Final for a classic example of mauling and technical control. That was an exciting game which only had a few line breaks. There were lots of line breaks and trys in the AU vs France game recently and I stopped watching at half time. It was boring as hell. Tactics seems to have gone out of the game too. It’s just tap and go, or Garryowen tennis from 22 to 22. Bah, I’m getting annoyed just talking about these new rules. Needless to day, I am in the no camp.

28 07 2008
Mick Bell

I’m loving it. I abondoned Super 14 and local club rugby for a few years because it was so boring. However it is now a faster and more entertaining game. The Rugby purists still seem to have the dinosaur attitudes but our game has to evolve to keep the punters intertested.
I disagree that it is bceoming more like league. It’s just faster and stronger Rugby. I like the idea of the one point field goal though. This is one thing that League has right.

28 07 2008

I’ve got to say, I’m a big fan after seeing two real contests; Australia v South Africa and Australia v NZ. The best thing to come out of it was far fewer penalty kicks for goal.
Having stated my preferences, it must be said I’m a traditional Rugby League fan, but have always follwed Rugby but frustrated by having to wait to the last quarter of a game to see some free flowing rugby.
Rugby league has been boring the crap out of me of late. With union’s new ELVs I can at least watch a game that has the right mix of unpredictibility and skill level. They are definitely on a winner in my books.

6 08 2008

still not sure of the point. We already have one of the fastest games in the world. The fact that at the moment the game also gives opportunity to tactical field positioning, controlled strength and raw power surely only adds to the overall spectacle.

I worry that people get caught up in thinking that because the sudden bursts of speed and handling cause heightened excitement, people think the action itself is the holy grail. It is worth giving credence to the idea that it is the anticipation of certain pockets of excitement that provides the essence of sports viewing, and not always the action itself. The action is only exciting relative to the quality of build up (just ask the mrs, gnarf gnarf).

Watch men run into each other and watch league. Fantastic atheletes, amazing running lines and breathtaking handling. And as a less artistic, complicated game, its brilliant.

Want a game that is pretty much unique in its combinations, competitor differences and tactics then watch Union. Then, when you think you have some great ideas, leave the laws alone and learn some patience.

18 11 2008

Not that impressed with what i’ve seen of the ELV’s. It clearly reflected in little or no structure to the autumn internationals as teams rushed to play after a breakdown. And what was with comments like ‘that foul was given because of the refs interpretation of the law.’ thats like saying stealing from a bad person is ok… no it’s not!
Collapsing a maul was outlawed because of the risk of breaking somebodies neck… are tv numbers more important than the safety of the players??? Never mind that, as stated before, the maul is one of the very technical aspects of the game.
Offside line at the scrum… good idea, makes for a good specticle as no.8’s and scrum halves have a bit more room to move in.
I don’t know how people can say it’s designed for the new stronger breed of players as long ruck/maul sitations are the real test of strength and power.
As far as i can see these rules have just been invented to suit the soft sothern hemisphere teams. yes free flowing rugby can be good to watch but a tactical match pitting wit and strength against each other is what the game is about.
A point that should have been addressed is feeding the ball into the scrum, this has been a joke in recent years.

Yes the ELV’s have a few good points but overall i have to say NO

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