Rugby: ELVs a Permanent Change?

Alec MackenzieContributor IJuly 10, 2008

With the Super 14 season to use the new Stellenbosch laws, or ELVs, debate and controversy has come to the forefront as the Southern Hemisphere Nations push for for them to become standard throughout World Rugby.

However, perhaps unsurprisingly, they have come up against a large amount of resistance from the Northern Hemisphere nations, especially England.

With an incredibly strong and wealthy domestic competition, the European nations find very little incentive to change things. Added to the fact that unlike with Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, a large number of the clubs are privately owned by very rich individuals, it is harder for the rugby boards to impose a set of rules that may be unfavourable to many owners.

What is missed by many in Europe, and is blindingly obvious in the Super 14—which is struggling financially—is that the current style of play is losing out to fast flowing, free-running games such as League and Aussie rules.

Which isn't to say that rugby isn't a spectacle in itself, it just seems that so many of today's matches turn into kick-a-thons, with very little running rugby on display.

The 2007 Rugby World Cup final, with not a single try scored, was arguably the worst game of professional rugby I've ever seen. Neither team ever seemed to threaten the try line, and looked like they did not want to take the risk of sending the ball wide, instead using a process of using the forwards to ruck it up the field into drop-goal or penalty range, in which case the process would begin all over again.

It is this sort of game that that the ELV's are designed to limit, if not eliminate.

With free kicks instead of penalties for virtually all infringements, no passing into 22 to kick out on the full and the backline setting five metres off the back of the scrum, the ELV's turn the game into a much more free-running, fitter style of game, one which is more spectator friendly.

And spectators will respond, with viewing numbers for the 2008 Super 14 competition up significantly from last year. However, whether or not England and France will open up their support and endorsement to the idea is what the aws are really depending on, in order to have a significant effect on worldwide rugby, instead of locally.