The southern hemisphere’s showpiece provincial competition, the Super 14, gets underway this weekend and while the action promises to be as fierce as ever, the spotlight will focus on an exciting new dimension to the competition – the introduction of several of the International Rugby Board’s Experimental Law Variations (ELVs).
While the ELV trial process has incorporated a number of Tournaments around the world over the past two years, the SANZAR competition, comprising provincial sides from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa and some of the biggest names in the Game, will represent the highest level of testing to date.
Variations adopted by SANZAR for the Super 14 relate to the breakdown (tackle and post tackle area), the maul, the lineout, sanctions, kicking from inside the 22 metre line and the act of scoring in relation to the corner posts.
Highest level of testing
“The 2008 Super 14 represents an exciting opportunity for many of the ELVs to be trialled at what will be the highest level of competition to date. The IRB is delighted that SANZAR has consented to this trial and we are looking forward to seeing some of the biggest names in the Game playing under these Experimental Laws,” said IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset.
“The primary aim of the ELVs is to make the Game simpler to understand for players and supporters alike, and that the players dictate the outcome of matches not referee subjectivity. At the same time the basic fabric of the Game has to remain the same in terms of maintaining its identifiable characteristics – the scrum, maul, ruck, lineout and tackle.
“Importantly, everything that is being trialled relates to the Game’s Playing Charter that recognises Rugby as being a game for all shapes and sizes and that the contest for possession is of paramount importance.”
Managed by the IRB under the auspices of the Laws Project Group (LPG) the ELVs have been successfully trialled (either specific ELVs or in their entirety) in the Stellenbosch University Hostel League, Scottish Super Cup, Irish Age Grade Inter-Provincial Series, French Federation Cup, English Country Championship, Australian Rugby Championship, Sydney and Brisbane club competitions and Division B of the New Zealand National Provincial Championship.
The full inventory of ELVs will also be trialled across all levels of competition in South Africa in 2008, including the Vodacom and Currie Cup competitions. This will also allow for a comprehensive injury surveillance audit to be undertaken.
IRB ELVs Super 14 2008 Variants
IRB LPG Chairman Bill Nolan believes the Super 14 trials (which will include injury surveillance monitoring) along with the testing of the full inventory of ELVs in South Africa will provide the IRB with extensive data to analyse.
“We have been encouraged by the positive, receptive manner that all participating Unions have embraced this important project. It is vital that we continue to trial these ELVs in different countries and environments. SANZAR’s decision to adopt a selection of ELVs in the Super 14 is a significant step and the trials will also enable the IRB to obtain extensive qualitative feedback from players, coaches and referees," said Nolan.
“An education process for coaches, players and match officials has operated within all three participating Unions in the run-up to the competition, while many Super 14 players have already been exposed to the ELVs during the Australian Rugby Championship, Division B of New Zealand’s National Provincial Championship and in Super 14 warm-up matches which commenced on January 19. The feedback has been positive."
The ELV trials conducted in the Super 14 and in South Africa’s domestic competitions will be coupled with Member Union feedback and analysis of all the previous trials to form a comprehensive report. This report, including recommendations from the LPG on the ELVs, will then be presented to the IRB Council in November.
“Council will decide at the meeting whether to accept all or some of the ELVs or to amend them. If accepted, the ELVs will be implemented on a worldwide basis for a trial period of 12 months. The ELVs would then be integrated fully into Law at the end of this trial period through further Council approval in late 2009,” added Nolan.
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