Monday 21 May 2007

Breaking The Law

- Sydney, Australia
New rules... new rules in rugby... already quite possibly the most stupidly complicated game in the world. Now the IRB, the sports governing body, wants to make it harder for us simple folk who understand the rules to follow the game with new fangled laws? Bugger...

This past week new laws were on trial in Sydney Rugby Club. The new rules are designed to open up the game, encourage more expansive play, more tries. In other words they are supposed to remove the slower elements from rugby, the parts of the game that can slow it down a lot and produce a faster more spectator friendly game.

Some of these new rules include:

* The ball can't be kicked out on the full if it's passed back inside the 22m line.

* Numbers in lineouts aren't restricted -- a minimum of two but no maximum -- which encourages more quick throw-ins.

* At the scrum, both backlines must be 5m behind the hindmost foot.

* Most infringements are now free kicks instead of penalties. Offside and foul play are still penalised, with yellow cards still used for repeat offences.

I have to say I like all of them bar number three. Keeping players 5m behind the back foot is gonna be hard to marshall, especially if the opposition is going forward at a rate of knots. I'm kinda indifferent to the lineout change, like the 5m rule I'd like to see it in action before I make up my mind about anything. The other two laws I really like though, forces teams to run the ball more and will remove that disgustingly (and primarily English) practice of playing for penalties and cynicism at the breakdown.

Using these experimental rules 59 tries were scored in just six games in Sydney's premier rugby competition. There are further rules for the breakdown situation being tested in Scotland. These are apparently designed to make rucking more competitive, ie hands will be allowed provided the defender has come from behind the back foot. Going by the IRB schedule these rule changes will be introduced during the summer tests in 2008 at the earliest

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