Next year’s Super 14 competition will trial several law changes designed to make the game faster and more exciting to watch.
The decision to introduce the Experimental Law Variations (ELVs) was taken at a South African, New Zealand and Australian Rugby Unions (Sanzar) meeting in Sydney on Tuesday.
“We’re introducing the new laws to Super 14 to super-charge Super rugby,” Australian Rugby Union (ARU) deputy chief executive officer Matt Carroll told reporters.
“The Sanzar nations have always been at the forefront of the game and yet again Sanzar is to lead the world.”
Among the changes to be tried out are that backlines must stand five metres away from the scrum and that quick throw-ins to lineouts are now allowed to go backwards.
All offences except offside and foul play will be punished by a free kick rather than a penalty.
The main aim of the ELVs is to keep the ball in play longer with fewer stoppages and more running rugby to create a faster and more exciting style of play.
“The IRB asked Sanzar to trial the ELVs and we are happy to do that. It will be the highest level of rugby competition at which they have been trialled which is exciting,” New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew said.
Other possible rule changes, including allowing hands in the ruck and pulling down mauls, will not be trialled due to concerns over the vagueness of their interpretation.
The variations adopted for the Super 14 include:
— Backlines must be five metres back from the scrum.
— On lineouts, quick throw-ins can now go backwards, towards the own goal line.
— 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 22-metre line and he or a teammate kicks it into touch, the lineout will be from where the ball is kicked out.
New South Wales Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie and captain Phil Waugh endorsed the changes.
“We’ve been calling for this for a long time so its great to see it locked in stone,” McKenzie said. “It’s a big win for attacking rugby.
We saw the benefits of the ELVs in the Australian Rugby Championship with more tries being scored and the ball in play for longer.
“That’s now going to be translated into the Super 14, which can only be a good thing both for the players and for those watching the game.”
Waugh said: “Positive, attacking play has been the result in every competition that has trialled the ELVs 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.”
The Waratahs and Queensland Reds will be among the first Super 14 clubs to play under the law changes when they meet in a pre-season trial at Campbelltown on Australia Day, January 26.
However, Sanzar has decided not to introduce some of the more contentious variations developed under the ELVs and trialled in this year’s Australian Rugby Championship.
They include allowing hands in the ruck, pulling down of mauls and unlimited numbers in the lineout.
Carroll said they were not adopted due to “vagueness” over interpretation.
The IRB had invited Sanzar to trial the law variations in the Super 14.