BBC Sport rugbyunion


Related BBC sites

Page last updated at 13:41 GMT, Thursday, 4 September 2008 14:41 UK

The lowdown on the new law variations

South Africa and Australia contest a line-out during the Tri-Nations
The line-out battle will see a host of changes for the new season

A new rugby season is looming on the horizon and coaches, players and fans alike will have to adjust to new rule changes in the coming term.

The International Rugby Board is trialling a series of new measures, called the experimental law variations (ELVs) that could make a significant impact on how the game is played.

Defending teams can now ground mauls while line-outs can contain an unlimited number of players. But these are just a couple of the new rules brought in.

Here BBC Sport gives a summary of the main alterations as well as rounding up the opinions of those who will have to get their heads around the changes.


Grounding of mauls by defending teams: Previously teams were not allowed to collapse a maul but now they can by pulling another player down between the shoulder and the hips. If they ground it by grabbing their opposition outside this area, it is still an offence.

Distance from scrums: Backlines must stay at least five metres behind the back of the scrum. Previously, they had to be level with the back foot of the scrum.

Passing back into the 22 to kick for territory: If the ball is passed back inside 22 for a team mate to kick the ball directly into touch, there will no longer be any ground gained. However, if the ball started within the player's 22 metre line then it can be kicked into touch for a gain of ground as normal.

No player restrictions at line-outs: Each team's line-out must have at least two players in it, but as long as all players involved fit within the space between the five metre line and the 15 metre line, there is no upper limit. Previously, teams had to have equal or fewer than their opponents.

blue moonday
Defending line-outs: The receiver at the lineout (usually the scrum-half) must be two metres away from the lineout, while the player in opposition to the one throwing in the ball (usually the hooker) must stand in the area between the five metre line and the touchline as well as being two metres away from the five-metre line. Previously, neither the scrum-half or hooker had to be two metres away.

Pre-gripping in line-outs: Players who are lifting in the line-out no longer need to wait until the ball has been released by the thrower before they grip the player being lifted. This formalises what players were doing in any case.

Quick line-outs: When taking a quick throw in, a player will no longer be required to throw the ball straight along the line of touch - it can now go backwards.

Corner posts: Previously, a try would be ruled out if a player touched the corner flag before touching down. That is no longer the case as the post is now in play.


"We are getting on with the new rules. We are looking forward to seeing how they are implemented. After two or three months we will know the effectiveness of the new rules. Then we can make some judgements."
Wasps rugby director Ian McGeechan

"English referees have had a lot of time looking at the ELVs and are quite clear how they are going to interpret certain parts of the law. It concerns me that, going into the season, we have not had that information. If our referees have not been talking about what this means, it's going to be chaos for the first couple of months."
Scarlets coach Nigel Davies

"Better does not necessarily mean more entertaining. If you want entertainment you play Twenty20 cricket. That has to be the judgment. These changes have been made with a view to entertainment, not to improving rugby."
Saracens rugby director Eddie Jones

"It's going to be a case of getting out there and seeing what happens. We found during pre-season that there were a lot of issues coming at us all the time and it will take a few months to iron them out. The ball will be in play a bit more and that will suit us."
Northampton head coach Jim Mallinder

Michael Lipman
We are all pretty excited about them, the speed of the game has improved

Bath captain Michael Lipman
"It is very rare that Scotland is the biggest side on the park and we often struggle to get the ball against the bigger teams that just keep the ball at the back of a rolling maul. So the rules give the smaller teams a bit of a help. England and Ireland don't want this one as they feel it takes away from one of their core strengths. It could make the game more open."
Glasgow Hawks coach Peter Wright

"Some of us are disappointed with certain aspects and positive about others but that is the hand we have got and we have just got to get on with it."
London Irish head coach Toby Booth

"The experimental law variations will depower a lot of the traditional mauling sides, of which there are quite a few in the Premiership, and then there are the periods in which a number of teams will be pretty heavily hit by international call-ups. I don't think some people have truly considered the implications of both of these things."
Newcastle assistant coach Stuart Grimes

"They are obviously going to change parts of the game. Some of the ELVs are positive, and we've got some I can't really see the sense of, but it is not the end of the world. The pass back into the 22 is going to change things dramatically."
Gloucester head coach Dean Ryan

"You have to accept the fact they are there. If you have done your homework on them then hopefully you will have your game-plan in place. Whether they are right for the game or not is irrelevant because they are there for the season."
Harlequins rugby director Dean Richards

"It's going to throw up all sorts of technical stuff, there will be more innovation. What has been crucial is that the referees have been concentrating on them and not on other aspects of the game which make it function."
Newcastle rugby director Steve Bates


"There is not really a great deal of difference. We are all pretty excited about them, the speed of the game has improved. We all have to adjust but that will come with time. I watched the Super 14 and the first three or four games were pretty average but towards the end it got to a really good standard - I am sure the same thing will happen in the Premiership."
Bath flanker Michael Lipman

"I'm not convinced they're going to make a hell of a lot of difference. It's going to be interesting over the first couple of months of the season to see how things bed down. As a club we've looked at the contact area and tweaking tactics in terms of line-outs and kicking, but it's still the same game and hopefully we've done enough that we won't get caught cold. Staying on your feet in contact, for example, is how it should be anyway. There's not much need to change the game, but maybe somebody in authority wants to leave a legacy or something, who knows?"
Wasps flanker Tom Rees

"The new rules will suit a team like London Irish, certainly with our attacking philosophy and the players we have. I am a little bit disappointed from the line-out point of view that the new rules have taken away the driving contest but on the whole we are looking forward to it."
London Irish lock Bob Casey

"Initially, I would have said I was quite firmly against the new laws. After playing with them, the majority of them make a slight alteration and don't make a huge difference. Should they have brought the rules in? No. The Guinness Premiership and Heineken Cup are great brands of rugby. Now I've accepted them and played under them, I've started to see the positives. There's a lot of pressure on referees now."
Leicester skipper Martin Corry


"Having to keep the backline five metres back from the scrum will mean teams will get across the gainline more often because there is more space for them to build up momentum going forward. Not being able to pass the ball back into the 22 to kick for touch will mean there will be less kicking for touch and more kicking for field position. The ability to collapse a scrum does take the advantage away from heavier teams, but mauls also used to be a great way to suck 16 players into one area of the park. With the new rules, the midfield will probably become much more cluttered."
BBC Scotland rugby pundit John Beattie

Print Sponsor

see also
Irish set to defy doom-mongers
02 Sep 08 |  Rugby Union
Scots can build on good work
02 Sep 08 |  Scottish
Start of a new era at Wasps
04 Sep 08 |  London Wasps
Saracens boss attacks laws trial
27 Aug 08 |  English
Warriors sign up referee Watkins
14 Aug 08 |  Worcester
Warrior Latham impressed by ELVs
14 Aug 08 |  Worcester
Bates keen to test new rugby laws
07 Aug 08 |  Newcastle
Pickering rejects O'Neill claims
14 Jul 08 |  Rugby Union
Law changes trial gets go-ahead
01 May 08 |  Rugby Union
Tri-Nations to trial law changes
02 Jun 08 |  Rugby Union
RFU questions rugby law changes
23 Apr 08 |  Rugby Union
Booth concern over law experiment
13 Feb 08 |  London Irish
Rewriting rugby's laws
06 Dec 06 |  Rugby Union

related bbc links:

related internet links:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2017 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.