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Page last updated at 14:12 GMT, Tuesday, 31 March 2009 15:12 UK

Maul preserved after laws review

Wales begin a maul against Australia last November
The maul changes have been controversial

The controversial rule change which led to the maul almost becoming extinct is set to be rejected by rugby chiefs.

An International Rugby Board conference has discussed the impact of the experimental law variations (ELVs) being trialled around the world.

After two days of review, 10 ELVs have been recommended to be passed into law.

But the variation allowing mauls to be pulled down was thrown out while the ELV which sees most offences penalised with a free-kick is to be reviewed.

Although the ELVs are believed to have boosted the amount of time the ball is in play, there have been concerns among many, particularly those in the northern hemisphere, that they have reduced the quality of attacking play.

The Rugby Football Union elite rugby director Rob Andrew and Lions coach Ian McGeechan have been critical of the ELVs.

The IRB conference - which featured coaches, referees, administrators and representatives from all the major unions - conducted a detailed review into the ELVs which were introduced worldwide in August 2008.

The review included statistics from more than 800 matches in 15 different countries.

One of the recommended ELVs is the pass-back rule, which prevents players from making any ground with a kick to touch if the ball has been played back into their own 22.

It was this rule, when Wales fly-half Stephen Jones kicked out on the full in the final game of the Six Nations, which gave Ireland the line-out for their Grand Slam-winning drop-goal in Cardiff.

Another recommendation is the five-metre off-side line at the scrum, a move that has proved popular with coaches.


However, some of the most contentious variations were not ratified by the London conference.

The ELV allowing mauls to be pulled down has been at the centre of much discussion with the likes of Ireland coach Declan Kidney and Italy boss Nick Mallett among the voices of dissent.

Italy have used the maul as an offensive weapon in the past but with opposing teams able to pull it down without sanction, they struggled without it and finished this year's Six Nations with the Wooden Spoon.

Chris Cuthbertson, chair of the Rugby Football Union's ELV Task group said: "The feedback from the Game and our game analysis indicates that pulling down the maul and unrestricted numbers in the line-out have not improved the game."

Meanwhile, the sanctions ELV, which sees most offences penalised with a free-kick and is currently being trialled in the southern hemisphere's Super 14 competition, has been sent away for further review.

Former Ireland coach Eddie O'Sullivan said the number of free-kicks now awarded in the Super 14 had led him to stop watching it.

The IRB is also looking to clarify the rules at the breakdown, which has seen teams less inclined to counter attack.

A complaint of this change has been that sides have instead traded downfield kicks for long passages of play.

"Naturally opinions differed in several areas of the ELV programme," IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset.

"The IRB regards this as a healthy and positive state of affairs as the game's laws have always and should continue to allow coaches and players to interpret law so that different styles of play can be employed.

"What was clear was that there was agreement on many aspects of the ELVs and a collective will to see a return to one set of laws to govern the game as soon as possible."

The IRB's rugby committee will finalise their list of recommendations at a meeting in Dublin on 27 April before putting it before the full IRB council on 13 May.

ELVs recommended to be passed into law:

Law 6 - Assistant referees allowed
Law 19 - Kicking directly into touch from ball played back into 22 equals no gain in ground
Law 19 - Quick throw permitted in any direction except forward
Law 19 - Positioning of player in opposition to the player throwing-in to be two metres away from line-out and the line of touch
Law 19 - Pre-gripping of line-out jumpers allowed
Law 19 - Lifting in the line-out allowed
Law 19 - Positioning of receiver must be two metres away from line-out
Law 20 - Five-metre offside line at the scrum
Law 20 - Scrum-half offside line at the scrum
Law 22 - Corner posts no longer touch in goal

ELVs not recommended:

Law 17 - Maul, head and shoulders not to be lower than hips
Law 17 - Maul, pulling down the maul
Law 19 - Freedom for each team to determine line-out numbers

ELVs sent for further examination:

Sanctions and free-kicks

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see also
Maul laws need changing - Ruddock
20 Jan 09 |  Worcester
Hewat sees ELV benefit for Irish
12 Sep 08 |  London Irish
Ryan in for long haul with ELVs
05 Sep 08 |  Gloucester
The lowdown on the new law variations
04 Sep 08 |  Rugby Union
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

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