Last night the great and good of the London South West referee region gathered to be ELV’d. The official line is ours is not to question why and we will get on and apply the laws in games. The general view is that aside from the maul pull down, there is no dispute with the ELV as being applied in the Northern Hemisphere. Efforts to speed up the game, such as the quick throw-in were only unwelcome for the extra physical effort needed to control them.
The broader issue of the Sanction ELV (pure evil and the Aussie RL Trojan Horse) wasn’t discussed but I did get the feeling from the RFU officials that HQ is dead-set against these coming into law. Comment from the RFU referee development officer suggested that ‘speeded-up’ game in SANZAR is such that even with 7 replacements, players are suffering serious weight loss and even elite referees are having trouble keeping up with the pace of the game. God help the rest of us!
Notes on the individual Laws; I am assuming readers are broadly familiar with the northern hemisphere ELVs
For high level games this will continue as it has been for a number of seasons were TJs have always assisted. This does not mean that the reserve for the Extra-Bs will be doing anything other than marking touch. The referee remains the sole arbiter of Law.
Law 17 – Maul
There will be a clear distinction;
Pulling down a maul – Legal
Collapsing a Maul – Penalty
Players can bring a player down by pulling between the shoulders and waist, but not the collar. Players on the ground can not pull down a maul this will be a penalty. Any action involving taking out a opposing players legs is illegal.
As the maul goes to ground, Referees will encourage the ball to be used; otherwise sides will risk a turn-over
Law 19 – Touch and Line Out
The ball can not be played into the 22 and kicked directly into touch and ground gained. If it bounces 1m in field and then out that is fine. If there is a tackle, ruck, maul or it is touched by any opposition player then ground can be gained just like last season.
If centre of a scrum is outside the 22 and ball comes out inside the 22 then that is played backed.
With line outs, it is all about the middle line, a steal on the 22 is not played back, so kicks directly to touch are OK.
These can go in any direction, but must cross the 5m as last year. There is no off-side, so the non-throwing side can position themselves anywhere behind the point of touch and 5m in to challenge a receiver of the ball. Usually requirements for a quick throw remain; it must be the same ball and must not touch a non-player. There will be greater focus on the speed of ball release from players tackled into touch. There will be an assumption that the quick throw in on, and that this should not be prevented, sanction will be a penalty 15m in.
Minimum of two players and maximum of 13 in the line; there must be a receiver.
The non-throwing side must have a ‘hooker’ in the 5m channel and they must stand at least 2m from the 5m line.
Law 20 – Scrums
Off-side for numbers 10-15 is 5m back from the hind-most foot of the scrum. At a scrum 5m from the goal line, the goal line remains the off-side line, even if the scrum moves towards it. It was felt that the extra space gives the attacking back-row a large advantage at this range and Referees will be watching for wheels and may reset more often to discourage this.
The scrum half’s off-side line remains the ball, but defending halfs can not drift across more than a meter. If they go around the opposite side to the put-in, then they can not move past the flanker, should they retreat back across the 5m, they can not return.
It’s not an ELV, put an IRB directive on No8 will be enforcing the full bind. They must be fully bound as the rest of the scrum engages and can’t ‘rock in’ to an engagement. Last season this would be not bound penalty, now it is an off-side penalty (not bound- not part of the scrum, inside the 5m)
These are no longer in touch, unless the ball is grounded against them. Defenders will need to switch on, if the ball hit the post and bounces into in-goal, the ball is live and it is not automatically a 22 drop-out. Similarly, hitting the post and going into touch is now 5m line-out.
I still expect mayhem on the few weeks of the season, most referees expect to be contructively coaching sides, but don't expect a pre-match lecture; they will expect you to know the Laws.