Ryan reflective on ELVs

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Gloucester boss Dean Ryan believes rugby union’s controversial new law variations do not match their “scaremongering” reputation.

The so-called ELVs (Experimental Law Variations) officially arrive in the northern hemisphere game on a 12-month trial from tomorrow.

They include defending teams being able to legally collapse a maul, players not allowed direct kicks into touch from inside the 22 if possession reaches them from outside that line, and backs having to stand five metres behind the feet of their number eight at a scrum in attack and defence.

There is also a series of lineout changes, including no limit on personnel numbers, while touch judges now become assistant referees and can help the main match official in any way required.

Gloucester will gain first competitive experience of the ELVs in Toronto next week when they tackle Canada A, with their Guinness Premiership rivals Sale Sharks and Newcastle also in action during the next eight days.

Worldwide trialling of the variations was sanctioned by the International Rugby Board three months ago.

Critics claim the changes are not needed, but supporters say they could lead to a faster, more open game that will thrill the fans.

Extensive trials have already taken place in major southern hemisphere competitions like the Tri-Nations and Super 14.

Ryan said: “The ELVs are obviously going to change parts of the game.

“But given the scaremongering and all the political shenanigans over the summer, it is not as bad as it could have been.

“Some of the ELVs are positive, and we’ve got some I can’t really see the sense of, but in terms of where we could have been, it is not the end of the world.

“For us, the Canada trip is an early chance to try some things. The game against Canada A means we can try some of the things we have been talking about during pre-season.

“I think the five-metre scrum law is going to be interesting. It offers some different ways of attacking and defending, but it is not as clear-cut as it sounds.

“It has implications in other areas such as organisation, and you might see back-row moves coming in, a bit of old school if you like.

“It allows you a little more ability to get across the gain-line, but it will also be interesting to see how it is refereed.

“It has been refereed (in the southern hemisphere) that the defending side has to stand back five metres, but not necessarily the attacking side! That’s going to be interesting.”

Many Super 14 games have been blighted by aimless kicking between both sides, reducing parts of those matches to mind-numbing spells of boredom.

Ryan added: “I think the pass back into the 22 is going to change things dramatically, both in terms of kicking and also what happens off the back of that.

“We’ve seen an awful lot of poor kicking in the southern hemisphere, but if people get smart enough you will see some different things.

“Kicking from the 22 will have a big impact on whether people counter-attack or aimlessly kick the ball back. I think we will see a mix of both in the early days.

“It will also be interesting to see those things which look great in the southern hemisphere, how they actually fare when it is throwing down with rain in the northern hemisphere winter, which is a slightly different challenge.

“The one I still can’t understand is the lineout ELV. I am not sure where it is aiming to take the game.

“I thought we had a pretty vibrant contest within the lineout anyway. But it’s there, and we have got to get on with it.”

The Gloucester squad have spent much of this summer analysing and understanding how to adopt, implement and profit from the IRB’s modifications.

But the new-look game could take weeks to settle down after its full competitive kick-off in England on September 6, when the new Premiership campaign is launched.

Gloucester’s England international wing James Simpson-Daniel said: “We’ve been given handouts, and it is about going home and doing your homework on the law variations.

“You watch games and see how things are being done, and it is about how quickly we can adapt and get used to them.

“We are the first to admit that come day one, we are not going to be playing perfect rugby or necessarily the right way with these new ELVs.

“There are going to be a lot of matches that need playing, and then you find your feet a bit more and things become easier, but everyone is in the same boat.”