North split on ELVs

It’s just hours before the start of the 2008/09 Premiership season but there are still mixed feelings towards the implementation of the ELVs.

The 2008 Super 14 witnessed the introduction of the new laws and the first few weeks of this competition were marked by criticism from various players, coaches and media. Only 80% of the new laws were applied to this tournament, and when the full set were implemented in the Absa Currie Cup, there was even more criticism and derision. Nobody wanted to change.

It is not surprising that the northern hemisphere are displaying similar feelings ahead of the first round of league matches. Saracens director of rugby Eddie Jones has already questioned the need for such a change while a few other coaches say the ELVs will hamper the north’s traditional strengths.

“The experimental law variations will depower a lot of the traditional mauling sides, of which there are quite a few in the Premiership, and then there are the periods in which a number of teams will be pretty heavily hit by international call-ups,” Newcastle assistant coach Stuart Grimes said. “I don’t think some people have truly considered the implications of both of these things.”

London Irish lock Bob Casey lamented the law that allows defending players to sack the maul.

“The new rules will suit a team like London Irish, certainly with our attacking philosophy and the players we have,” Casey said. “I am a little bit disappointed from the line-out point of view that the new rules have taken away the driving contest but on the whole we are looking forward to it.”

Former England skipper Martin Corry said it may take some time to adjust to the ELVs. The Leicester skipper was initially against the new laws, and although he still opposes the reasons for change, he can see the sense in their implementation.

“After playing with them, the majority of them make a slight alteration and don’t make a huge difference. Should they have brought the rules in? No. The Guinness Premiership and Heineken Cup are great brands of rugby. Now I’ve accepted them and played under them, I’ve started to see the positives. There’s a lot of pressure on referees now,” said Corry.

Wasps loose forward Tom Rees shares a similar view to that of his former England team-mate.

“I’m not convinced they’re going to make a hell of a lot of difference. It’s going to be interesting over the first couple of months of the season to see how things bed down.

“As a club we’ve looked at the contact area and tweaking tactics in terms of line-outs and kicking, but it’s still the same game and hopefully we’ve done enough that we won’t get caught cold. Staying on your feet in contact, for example, is how it should be anyway,” said Rees.

“There’s not much need to change the game, but maybe somebody in authority wants to leave a legacy or something, who knows?”

Meanwhile, Glasgow Hawks coach Peter Wright is looking forward to a competition that allows smaller teams a better chance.

“It is very rare that Scotland is the biggest side on the park and we often struggle to get the ball against the bigger teams that just keep the ball at the back of a rolling maul. So the rules give the smaller teams a bit of a help. England and Ireland don’t want this one as they feel it takes away from one of their core strengths. It could make the game more open.”