Clubs maul 'flaky' variations to laws

The most competitive campaign in Premiership history will also be the most uncertain. That much became clear yesterday as coaches and players alike gave voice to their alarm over the new rules – Experimental Law Variations, in committee-speak – about to be imposed upon them by the International Rugby Board, which has no support for any of this among the English clubs but is pressing ahead anyway.

"We have a set of laws picked out of a cornflakes packet," remarked Eddie Jones, the new director of rugby at Saracens. "Dragging down the maul is the biggest farce of all," muttered his counterpart at London Irish, Toby Booth. "We've had three warm-up games, and we haven't been refereed the same way twice," groaned Philippe Saint-André of Sale. And Pat Sanderson, the former England flanker who captains Worcester? He suspects some teams will be far happier playing without the ball than with it.

According to Sanderson, the architects of the ELVs, which affect such crucial areas as the line-out and the maul, have failed to think things through. "There has been no proper assessment of the linkage between the new laws, the way a change in one area of the game affects other areas," he said. "When you combine this with the new edict from the IRB about the refereeing of the breakdown, which will make it harder for the team in possession to protect the ball, it's quite likely that sides will decide they don't want it in the first place. And then where will we be?"

Despite the successful fight against the most extreme elements of the ELV package – the hare-brained move to replace penalties with free kicks, currently on trial with considerable comic effect in the southern hemisphere, and the spectacularly ill-judged attempt to draw an offside line at every tackle, which has yet to see the light of day in elite rugby anywhere in the world – the English game remains worried to its very core.

Saint-André believes it will take at least eight games, almost half a season, for teams to come to terms with what is now expected of them. "What will spectators see? It is massively difficult to predict," said Saint-André, still so traumatised by the foul-up against London Irish that cost his side a play-off place last season that he pointed theatrically to his throat and claimed he was still "unable to digest" the result. "In good conditions, we may have a quicker game. In wet weather, I am sure teams will kick far more than usual."

For all that, yesterday's official Premiership launch was not without good news. Ian McGeechan, who will be splitting his coaching time between Wasps and the Lions over the next few months, reported that Danny Cipriani, the brilliant young outside-half who made such an impact in his first international for England before suffering a grisly fracture dislocation of the ankle, was back on his feet and running strongly. "Danny is moving at between 60 and 70 per cent and is ahead of schedule," McGeechan said. "It's very encouraging. All things being equal, he'll be there or thereabouts by the end of November. We expect to see him back on the field pre-Christmas, rather than post-Christmas."

It was also announced that ITV had bought rights for a one-hour weekly Premiership highlights package, thereby reintroducing the competition to rugby followers without a satellite dish. The show will be screened twice, first on ITV 4 in the Sunday teatime slot and then on ITV 1 on Tuesday nights.

News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn