ELVs a sham, says Stade Francais coach

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The Independent Online

The ELVs adopted in the northern hemisphere this season are largely a sham, a top coach said yesterday.

The refusal by most of the northern hemisphere nations to embrace all the suggested new laws which were widely trialled throughout the southern hemisphere season this year, has meant there has been hardly any difference, according to Australian Ewen McKenzie.

The former coach of the New South Wales Waratahs is now at French club Stade Francais but McKenzie is concerned that the game in this part of the world is not seeing the true impact or potential of the trialled law changes.

"Everyone has talked about the new rules but I don’t feel like we have played under new rules at all. I coached the new rules proper with the Waratahs in the Super 14 and that was a world away from this, way different. As far as I am concerned, we are still playing mostly the old rules.

"If you convert the penalties into free kicks, it is a different game. Don’t change anything else, just do that. It is less stress for a referee because he is not giving the game away by handing over three points every time. He can be more severe, so you do get some more discipline in a game if you need that.

"But for me, the game flows, you can play more with the free kick rule. That is the real crux of the new laws but they haven’t brought that in here. We are just playing virtually the same game. Yes, there have been some subtle changes like players having to retreat an extra 5 metres behind scrums and the ability to have quick line-out throws, which is good.

"But those are minor things. And having coached both sets of trialled new laws, I would have brought in the free kick law. That definitely promotes more ball movement. The free kick ruling is a real change if you want to make a difference. That’s the big decision."

McKenzie made little attempt to hide his belief that the game is in danger of wasting a great opportunity of luring a new audience if it turns its back on key elements of the suggested changes, principally the free kick. He warned “I understand the debate, change is difficult.

"But we are now in the entertainment business. Kids have all sorts of technology in their homes now so we as a sport have got to do things to make them get off their bums and come to watch our game, especially when the weather is cold.

"That means you have got to keep thinking of new ways. The traditionalists will still come, but one day they will die out and will have to be replaced. So you have got to make it an interesting game for the next generation and they want razzamatazz.

"People won’t sit around and get bored; they will move on to the next thing if our game isn’t sufficiently interesting. So we have to work out how we are going to keep their attention. That is where I work from."

The Australian conceded that some of the changes this season have had a significant effect on certain teams and their style. "They have already taken the maul out of the game so that has had a big impact especially for teams like Munster and Leicester.

"They are the teams that are suffering most from removing the maul. It has taken away one of their weapons. But I feel the game has to move on, move forward. It can’t afford to stand still and always be the same. When you stand still you start to go backwards. That is the danger."