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.

BUY RUGBY WORLD CUP TICKETS

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
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen