Tank Lanning

New laws outlaw 'chunkies'

2008-09-05 03:19

Tank Lanning

Right, so we know the new laws are coming to a Super 14 game near you, but what are they, and what will they do to the game we love?

According to the head honcho's at the IRB, the main aim of the new laws are to keep the ball in play longer, see fewer stoppages, see more running rugby, and thus create a faster and more exciting style of play.

So what are they?

The rules we will see adopted for the Super 14 are:

  • Backlines must be 5m back from the scrum.

  • Quick lineout throw-ins can go backwards.

  • For all offences other than offside and foul play, the sanction is a free-kick rather than a penalty.

  • If a player passes or carries the ball from outside to inside his own 22m line and he or a teammate kicks it into touch, the lineout will be from where the ball is kicked out.

    And the more pertinent other rule changes, only to be introduced to the Currie Cup, Vodacom Cup, club rugby and schools rugby, due to concerns over the vagueness of their interpretation, are:

  • Allowing hands in the ruck.

  • Allowing the pulling down of mauls.

  • Unlimited numbers in the lineout.

    The Aussies have the edge in that they trialled all the new laws in their local tournament last year, and everyone from Ewen McKenzie to Phil Waugh raved about the effect.

    "Positive, attacking play has been the result in every competition that has trialled the new laws so far. It's great for the players but more so for the fans. People want to see action and that's what they'll get as a result of the introduction of the variations in the Super 14," said Waugh.

    But I am not sure the introduction of just the four new rules will make that much of a difference to this year's Super 14. Sure, there will be much banter early on, as with any change, but it's the allowing of hands in the ruck and the pulling down of mauls that will really change the game. Bringing back the feisty (read dirty, perhaps) openside flank and the friendship-ending "dogball" at practice is what that will do. But more on that closer to the Currie Cup...

    Less pressure

    So this is how I see the new Super 14 rules influencing the game...

    Fewer penalties so less pressure on referees, who will be faced with fewer contentious match-deciding penalty decisions.

    As such, fewer shots at goal, and less stoppage time. The game will get faster, so fitness will now be even more paramount.

    Player fatigue will kick in earlier and the more instinctive and creative players, along with the athletes in the game, will have more space to strut their stuff. Enter Ruan Pienaar and Pierre Spies.

    The 22m kick rule is not a massive change, but will add to the fact that the ball will stay in play longer.

    Allowing the ball to be thrown into a quick lineout backwards will make the quick throw-in and counter attack much more attractive to players - something we all love to see. Enter Brent Russell!

    Fewer penalties and the 22m kick rule will mean fewer lineouts, which could lead to future locks being shorter and more athletic as the game speeds up. Enter Danie Rossouw!

    With backlines being 5m further back from the scrum, a powerful scrum will now be a huge benefit. I see two things - the return of the backrow move involving loose forwards, scrumhalf, and then a some backline trickery like a fullback screaming in at a dummy angle, and the pick-and-go from a powerful No 8. With a good right shoulder (which takes your openside flank and the opposition's backward), a charging No 8 will now have 5m in which to pick up speed before taking on the flyhalf. Enter Spies, but only after the likes of Sione Lauaki and Rodney So'oialo!

    Game will not change

    So are we moving toward a more rugby league type game with less "fatty boom-booms" and more athletes that could play in any position?

    One of the men behind the decision to introduce these changes, Rod Macqueen had this to say: "No doubt the ball in play may see the body shape change by a couple of kilos."

    But he stressed the law variations were experimental and would be tweaked again if scrums and lineouts had less impact: "It's very important that we keep the shape of the game. Rugby's a game for all shapes and sizes and that's unique about the game."

    Which is sensational to hear, because I choose rugby union over league for that very reason! And to support Macqueen, the website Rugby Rugby made available a report on the effect of the new laws after their use in the Australian Rugby Championship last year, which compared the stats of that tournament to those of the Super 14 of last year. A quick look at those stats (which I will get up on my blog) suggests, thankfully, that the game will not change much at all.

    Bring on February 15 so we can make that call ourselves...

  • Tank is a former WP tighthead prop and now Sport24 editor and the author of the blog, Front Row Grunt.

  • Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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