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Why good old Northern thinking had to prevail.

Byline: brian dick

Don't be reassured by the fact the experiment is nearly over. There is, after all, no guaranteeing the mad professors at the International Rugby Board will look at the incontrovertible evidence and draw the same conclusions as the rest of the rugby-playing continent.

They wouldn't have proposed the ridiculous law variations in the first place if they had any sense of reason and having invested so much credibility in those despised ELVs the IRB and their selfjustifying Laws Project Group will not back down meekly.

Yet, one suspects there is at least light at the end of the tunnel and while I hope it does not belong to an oncoming juggernaut intent on destroying forever the fabric of the union code, it appears the early season grumbling has crystallised into end-of-season mutiny.

Following a two-day series of meetings earlier this week between the IRB, the national unions and other stakeholders, the 13 Experimental Law Variations introduced to the northern hemisphere are at their lowest ebb yet.

The international body used the information it received on Monday and Tuesday to decide which of the new rules it wants to put before its Council and recommend are retained.

While a baker's dozen were introduced at the start of the season, ten will be put before that body on May 13 in order to be ratified.

Thankfully the three most damaging will not be put forward. It seems the Europeans have beaten off the attempts of those down south to impose their structure on us.

The two relating to the maul, governing body angle and the fact it can be pulled down legally, have failed the test.

They will be scrapped at the end of the season.

And the freedom for each team to determine lineout numbers has also been thrown in the circular file marked Waste of Time and Effort.

I can't believe I'm writing this having moaned about legalised obstruction for years but - and here goes - how I long to see a well-structured rolling maul return to our pitches.

It is not a thing of beauty and I don't understand why Twickenham goes berserk whenever the white-shirted orcs trundle over the halfway line but you have to admit it certainly ties in forwards and creates room out wide.

Those pesky piano movers have been popping up all over the park this season, much to the detriment of the flow of the sport. Do I want Darren Morris or Henry Trinder in the outside centre berth charged with delivering the scoring pass? Now let me think.

Pulling the maul down means defending teams need commit just one or two front five boys while the rest fan out, clogging up midfield and generally making a mess of things.

Parity of numbers at the lineout has been restored much for the same reason.

To get forwards out of the way.

But others await ratification. I don't really see the point of the new offside line 5m behind the scrum. It hasn't really done anything other than give the officials something else to worry about.

I don't particularly want the kick-totouch protocols kept. Last season players could carry the ball back into their own 22 and boot it out on the full to gain territory. This year that practice results in a lineout where the kick was made..

As a result the Saturday afternoon skies have carried a blizzard of ill-judged and poorly executed up and unders as the ball is kept infield. Games are punctuated with tedious kicking exchanges, once more to the detriment of the flow.

Therearesomethatmight s as well stay, such as the legalisation of pre-gripping at a lineout which was going on anyway and the inclusion of the corner flag as 'in-play' for try-scoring purposes.

And I actually quite like the fact a quickly taken lineout no longer has to be straight given that it encourages quickthinking and adventure.

Sadly most referees are not comfortable with this practice and invariably stop the game anyway to speak to someone or more likely, catch up with play.

But overall I can only hope that we are on the brink of regaining the unique northern hemisphere style that so appals those from the Tri Nations.

I don't understand why they want to see a homogenised brand of rugby played across the globe or establish the primacy of one style over another. Surely it's the differences that make matches between Australia and England so compelling..

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CAPTION(S):

...and lifting in the lineout will now be permitted by the laws of rugby union. Just as well, really. The one lineout-related recommendation to be rejected was the freedom for teams to put as many or a few players into lineouts as they chose There'll be no more pulling down of rolling mauls, leading to lots or rumble-over scores...
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 2, 2009
Words:821
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