Paddy speaks out on ELVs

Paddy O`Brien on ELV review

Wednesday 15th October 2008

IRB Referees’ chief Paddy O’Brien has moved to correct ‘a lot of misinformation’ about the current trends in the northern hemisphere game generated by the new laws, and urged fans and administrators alike to remain patient and less emotional as the game settles with the new laws.

There have been six weeks of rugby in the north under the new laws – eight if you’re French – and the overall response has been mixed. Many games are interrupted by long bursts of aerial ping-pong, and several coaches have been left fuming at inconsistencies in the officiating from one game to another. However there have also been games of sheer brilliance.

Which is rather as it was before actually, a point not lost on O’Brien who insisted that the new laws were not to create more tries or make the game more entertaining, merely to clarify evolving points of contention within the game.

“80 to 90 percent of the ELVs the players say they strongly support them, so despite all the myths out there that people don’t like them, the people who play the game, who are at the end of the day the most important people, they’re telling us yes they love them,” said O’Brien to the IRB’s Total Rugby programme.

“I think there’s a bit of a myth out there that one of our objectives was to make the game more entertaining, which was not the case. That’s up to the players.

“As for the kicking, the stats show that kicking is no more than it was at Rugby World Cup 2007, in fact it’s down. There’s an average of 51 or 52 kicks in a game and if you go back to the semi finals and final of the World Cup there were 87 kicks per game, so there is a lot of misinformation out there.

“Sure, there is a lot of kicking and that is down to other reasons. Until the referees really get harsh at refereeing people on their feet at the tackle players will not commit to the breakdown and the only way to break defences is by kicking the ball.

“The fact that there’s a lot of kicking in games at the moment shouldn’t be put down to the ELVs.”

November is looming large on the horizon, with New Zealand, South Africa and Australia all heading up to play some Tests under yet another different set of laws against the European nations. Some of the players in the touring squads will be playing under their fifth set of laws within the one season.

The Test month has a bit of spice added to it with Rugby World Cup seedings at stake, and there is an air of apprehension that the continued changes in laws for the players from those three nations will make it harder for them to gain these points

“People get a bit emotional over it but the only difference between the two hemispheres at the moment – and a reminder the NPC and Currie Cup are being played under the 16 ELVs whereas up north it’s 13 – is that instead of being a penalty it’s a free kick as a sanction. That’s the only area,” said O’Brien.

“When a New Zealand, Australia or South Africa player looks up at the breakdown he’ll see the (referee’s) arm straight up in the air rather than a free-kick.

“The difference in the actual playing will be that rather than tapping and going, or saying ‘no we’ll take the scrum’, it’ll be a penalty and that can be kicked out for a line-out (or for goal). I don’t think there’s going to be much in it.”

The other main points of contention are the inconsistencies at the breakdown. Biarritz coach Jack Isaac was outspoken at the weekend after his side was continuously pinged for going off their feet, and Montauban were unlucky to be on the wrong end of a similar decision which cost them a famous win in Munster.

Many other coaches – Harlequins’ Dean Richards was the most notable one – have been angry at breakdown interpretations and differences in strictness from referee to referee over the weeks.

Then there is the matter of crooked feeding to the scrum, which was supposed to be a target for referees this year but still seems to be a problem.

“They haven’t taken their eye off the ball, but some haven’t perhaps been as vigilant as we’d like them to be. We’ve got real concerns and we will address them again at Lensbury (referee’s conference in November),” said O’Brien.

“We’ve put out three directives to the referees and some of them are ignoring them. We’ll be making it quite clear that we expect them to up the ante in this area but it is a real area of concern because the scrum nowadays is a contest for quality possession rather than winning possession, so to have a scrum straight before the ball goes in is a problem on its own.

“It’s a bigger issue than just getting the feed in straight but, having said that, we can be a lot better.”

http://www.planetrugby.com/Story/0,18259,3551_4339406,00.html

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