ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday November 4, 2007
Vol. 42 - No 23

The Future of Rugby "Stellenbosch Laws"

The IRB is seeking to induce more tries scored in rugby than the match winning penalties, which makes it rather boring.

The sport's governing body is keen to simplify the laws of the game to make more space for running and creating more enjoyment.. The IRB has been trailing a series of experimental laws at Stellenbosch University in South Africa.

A set of new laws have been experimented at club level in various countries for the past two years and the IRB now wants to try them in the Southern Hemisphere's top club competition, the Super 14. The new laws are being discussed more after the world cup. The kicking that was seen and the final that ended try less 15 to 6 suggest that the best advertisement for soccer may have been the Rugby World Cup. Additionally the game built more on defence suggests that the game need to change for attraction. . Following the Stellenbosch trial, the IRB are keen to take the experiment onto the next level. "Ultimately, we want the game to be easier to play, coach, and referee and easier for fans to watch," says, O'Brien the IRB Referee Manager

The Stellenbosch laws as it is fondly called -at scrums, for all non-participating players except scrum-halves – to be at least 5m behind the number eight's feet. This gives much more room for the back lines and helps make for a more skilful handling game. To be 5m back from the scrum will give the advantage to the attacking side? They will have more time and space to move the ball out. On the other hand it also gives more time to the defenders to line up their men.

Another area that is receiving attention is the changes to one of the most difficult to the referee - the break down point with over 30 offences to consider. This area too will see changes to make it simpler. O'Brien in his comments on the laws says that “it is a mess at the moment. The proposed change will allow players - so long as they're onside and have entered from the back and are on their feet to play the ball with their hands. This is bound to be a fight for the ball and the best or who can grab will win the ball. At preset the rucks and mauls are used by the defences to slow down the game by delaying the release of the ball. Is this really going to allow for quicker ball release and prevent illegal stealing of the ball? With opposing players trying to grab at the ball in the bottom of the ruck, will it not actually slow down the ball being released?

The new laws also propose that players that a maul can be pulled down. A rolling maul is something that keeps the fans excited, and collapsing it has led to an automatic penalty. The Stellenbosch laws allow the defending team to stop the maul's progress by dragging the whole thing to the floor .This must be done by grasping a player between the shoulder and hips and bringing the maul to ground. The Players joining the maul must do so through the gate. If a maul becomes unplayable – Free kick to the team not in possession at the start of the maul. In effect the question of stopping the maul has now been legalized t by allowing the defending side to collapse it.

The most interesting of the laws is the changes that have been proposed in respect of the Penalties. The players are punished by having a penalty awarded against them for numerous offences. At preset 'technical' offences are penalized by free-kicks which are invariably run rather than kicked to touch. Players cannot go for goal from free-kicks. The IRB now proposes that with the exception of foul play all penalties to be free-kicks," Will this encourage more ball to play or helps those who want to cheat by infringing rather than allow a try. There is only a free kick!Other changes which are minor but has an effect include the removing the option of a player passing the ball back inside the 22 for a team-mate to kick out on the full. This is seen as negative play. Corner flags are to be positioned away from the touch line.

A quick throw-in can be thrown backwards in the direction of the defenders goal line. There is to be no maximum number of players in the lineout and teams do not have to match numbers. The receive must stand 2metres back from the lineout. For all kick off and restart kicks, any infringement by the kicking team will result in a free kick to the non offending team at the centre of the half-way line/22 metre line. The experimental laws are aimed at encouraging players to run the ball more. They concentrate notably on rucks and mauls, where the defences currently slow down the game. Those laws are designed to make the game more exciting and to hand the game back to the players making decisions. . "The creation of space, keeping the ball in hands rather than in the air is things we want to encourage. On experiments we've had with the new laws, the ball is played ten per cent more of the time, more tries are being scored and the rugby gets more exciting.. "We need to free the game up a bit, make it easier to play, easier to referee, easier to understand and we have to produce more options for the players." Says Syd Miller the President of the IRB

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