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Super 14

Laurie Fisher

ELVs praise ... Fisher believes laws have improved rugby. Ray Strange

ELVs have improved the game

By Cameron Storey
June 04, 2008

INITIALLY met with fear, the ELVs are now part of Super 14 rugby. Laurie Fisher and Phil Mooney talk to foxsports.com.au about the improvements brought to the code by the laws.

More tries, less penalties and still the need for a dominant forward pack. The experimental law variations (ELVs) had a positive effect on this year's Super 14 according to those charged with its implementation.

Queensland Reds coach Phil Mooney and departing Brumbies mentor Laurie Fisher both insisted the ELVs made for a more exciting package without changing the fabric of the game.

Throughout the season as teams became more accustomed to the variations and fitness reached levels to complement the quicker game, rugby moved away from the drudgery of the field position-opposition mistake-penalty goal metronome that was driving fans elsewhere.

Luke Burgess

Burgess was a big fan of quick taps. AP

Instead they were forced to rely more on five pointers to topple the opposition and, according to Fisher, that meant more of the game being played with try line intent, possession rugby in the attacking 22.

"Definitely, absolutely no doubt about it there have been some real positives coming out of the ELVs," he said.

"I think one of the real benefits of having tap kicks is that sides are more inclined to control possession in the A-zone (22m to tryline).

"Because you don’t take as many shots at goal you have to control the ball more, attack more in the A-zone. It took away a lot of that to-ing and fro-ing from 22 to 22 waiting for your penalty shot."

Statistics back up Fisher's analysis.

Although points per game were slightly down leading up to the final round of the 2008 home and away season compared to 2007 that does not mean the rugby was duller.

There were in fact more tries scored (5.2 per game in 2008 compared to 4.6 in 2007). And more importantly, as many fans of the sport wanted, less penalties goals were potted.

On average there were almost eight less penalties conceded per game in 2008 and although there were 14.3 more free kicks awarded each game this year that was not always a bad thing.

Fisher said of the 48 extra tries scored this year that 47 of them came off the back of quick taps. The speed and continuity of play that came about from a prevalence of short arm penalties encouraged attacking, point-scoring rugby.

The argument that it takes the contest out of the forwards, I just don’t buy into that – Phil Mooney Reds coach refutes anti-ELVs argument
One of the major talking points leading up to the ELVs implementation in the Super 14 this year was its effect on forward play.

Many an old schooner-hugging, cauliflower-eared prop bemoaned the laws' introduction believing they would negate the importance of a team’s front eight.

The quicker footy, fewer lineouts, less frequent grinding play would ruin one of the great aspects of rugby; the prowess of a hulking forward pack.

This is the major sticking point holding back the International Rugby Board and northern hemisphere unions from embracing the changes completely.

But Reds coach Mooney disagreed entirely. He was adamant the team with the best pack still prevailed more often than not.

And with the new ELV moving backs five metres behind the No.8’s feet all kinds of attacking opportunities opened up on first phase after a solid scrum.

Richard Brown

Brown revelled in the faster rugby. Jody Darcy

"The argument that it takes the contest out of the forwards, I just don’t buy into that," he said.

"When you look at teams like the Crusaders and the Waratahs who built their seasons on the fact their forwards were dominant, the teams with the best forward packs were rewarded overall.

"And I think it's only going to get better. It is a natural progression but as the season went on teams got aerobically fitter and accustomed to the changes and down the track in another 12 months everyone will be even better.

"As far as the northern hemisphere teams go, I am not sure what they will do but I believe it is a better game with them (ELVs) and I would at least encourage the north to give them a go before casting them aside.”

It seems SANZAR officials agreed with Fisher and Mooney having for the first time introduced the laws into this year’s Tri Nations tournament involving Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

The Test matches will all utilise the Super 14 ELVs as well as two other laws approved by the IRB that allow unlimited lineout numbers and the ability to pull down the maul.



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