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
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
tvSeries celebrates 20th anniversary
News
news
Life and Style
Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
iphone launch
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
football
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

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

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week