French lower league to try rules rejected by top clubs

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The Independent Online

French rugby's Top 14 second XV league will trial three further ELVs (Experimental Law Variations) refused by Europe's top clubs.

Starting this weekend, the Espoirs Championship will provide the platform for a further six month trial of the rule variations that have featured in the recent Tri Nations and Super 14 competitions in the Southern Hemisphere, but are not part of the global trial that kicked off on 1 August.

The laws to be trialled are:

1. Sanctions: For all offences other than offside, not entering through the gate, and Law 10 - Foul Play, the sanction is a Free Kick.

2. Tackle and ruck: If the ball is unplayable at the breakdown, the side that did not take the ball into contact will receive a Free Kick

3. Maul: If a maul becomes unplayable, the team not in possession at the start of the maul receives a Free Kick

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: "The IRB Council, at its meeting in Dublin in May, outlined the importance of identifying a suitable elite level competition in the northern hemisphere to further trial the experimental variations that were not approved for global trial in the 2008/09 season. These variations relate to sanctions (the reduction of sanctions to free kicks where possible), the tackle, ruck and maul."

The agreement can hardly be seen as a resounding victory for the pro-ELVs camp who would have much preferred to have seen these extra changes - the Free Kick rules in particular - given a full trial in a top line competition, but Lapasset added: "The IRB is delighted that the FFR and LNR have provided the opportunity to proceed with this important trial within a professional competition structure.

"This is an exciting development for the Game and over the next six months the Laws Project Group (LPG) will be able to undertake extensive data research, including qualitative feedback from players, coaches and referees."

In March 2009 the ELV review process will begin and include Member Union feedback. The Rugby Committee will then make a recommendation to Council in May 2009 when the decision to accept any or all of the ELVs will be made.

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