By Rugby World reader, Will Carpenter

It’s been almost three seasons since the Experimental Law Variations (ELV’s) were introduced into English rugby; but have they achieved what they set out to achieve?

Their main aim was to make rugby a more viewer friendly sport by increasing excitement and promoting attractive game play. This was to be achieved by reducing the amount of out-of-hand kicking that took place and tilting the laws of the breakdown in favour of the attacking side. The result, fast flowing rugby and enough tries to flood a highlights reel? You would have thought so, however the statistics tell a very different story.

What the Stats tell us…

In the 2007/2008 season (the season before the global trial of the ELV’s), the Premiership boasted a total of 603 tries scored, with London Wasps leading the way with 67. However, last season, (2009/10) saw only 427 tries scored throughout the season. Incidentally, so far this season there have been 259 scored (as of 07/02/11). If this scoring rate is maintained the total number of tries scored will rise to 438, only 11 up on last season and still slacking along way behind the total registered in 2007/08. So what exactly has gone wrong?

Laws in focus

The introduction of the law on kicking out of hand, which states that ‘if a team puts the ball back into their own 22 and the ball is subsequently kicked into touch, there is no gain of ground,’ should have, theoretically encouraged sides to run the ball from all areas of the pitch, treating spectators to length of the field scores. Instead, it has promoted the introduction of kicking tennis into the modern game. Because the opportunity to kick the ball high and long into the crowd and gain hefty ground is now limited, teams are opting to keep the ball in play when they kick. If the side receiving the kick collects the ball outside their own 22 and see’s no chance for a counter attack, they are likely to return the ball straight back down the field, and so on and so forth… In previous years they may well have taken the ball back a few yards into their 22 and cleared the ball into row Z, allowing the game to restart with a line out.

In theory, it was a fantastic idea, but unfortunately teams (specifically northern hemisphere) are just not using them in the way they were intended.

As for the breakdown, it could be argued that this fine example of power, technique and superiority is being refereed out of the game, resulting in an almost ‘rugby league’ like spectacle. Again, the idea was a great one; the tackler must release the player before playing the ball allowing the attacking side more time to get in and get the ball away, providing quick ball and therefore increased try scoring opportunities.

However, realising that competing for the ball is now more likely to result in a penalty than a turnover, defending sides have called the bluff of the ‘powers that be’ and stopped competing. Instead, they simply realign and wait for the attackers to make a mistake, quashing the advantage that was given to the attackers in the first place.

Where next?

These are the two most influential ELV’s that have been introduced. I’m not claiming to know how to solve these problems or necessarily saying that the ELV’s are a bad thing, I’m just saying what I see.

What are your views?