Testing Times; Scottish Game Will Be Used as an Experiment for New Rules

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID BARNES

SCOTTISH club rugby is to be used as the testing ground for a number of experimental new laws that will alter the shape of the sport worldwide.

The International Rugby Board hope the changes will leave the rules of the game less open to individual interpretation by referees - therefore reducing the influence that officials often have in determining the outcome of matches.

Scotland's Premier One Super Cup competition has been chosen as the guinea pig for the controversial experiment, with the likes of Glasgow Hawks adhering to the changes when the tournament kicks off on January 6.

The proposed legislation includes:

Allowing defending teams to collapse rolling mauls.

Forcing backs to be five metres behind the back foot of the scrum.

Removing the requirement for teams to put the same numbers into line-outs.

The removal of corner flags.

Allowing players to play the ball with their hands at the breakdown.

Stopping players from passing the ball back into the 22 and then kicking it out on the full.

Ensuring that free-kicks are taken by tap kick or a scrum option only.

These so- called Experimental Law Variations (ELVs) are the outcome of months of research and analysis by an IRB task force headed up by Scotland's long- serving IRB council member Bill Nolan. The task force includes former Scotland coach Richie Dixon, as well as international luminaries such as Pierre Villepreux, Rod Macqueen, Ian McIntosh and the IRB referee development officer, Paddy O'Brien.

Earlier this year, they spent time at Stellenbosch University working with students in internal matches and introducing some of the new laws.

Last month, a framework of proposals was published and invitations sent out to the world's major rugby unions to volunteer to take part in the next stage of the experiment.

While several other, as yet unnamed, unions are also expected to try out some of the new laws, the SRU have volunteered the Super Cup as a vehicle for their wholesale introduction. …