Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Gavin Mairs: Time for rugby fans to lay down law

When Brian O’Driscoll was asked this week about the impact of the Experimental Law Variations so far this season, the Ireland captain largely dismissed the issue as something that only seemed to bother the media, not the players.

O’Driscoll missed the point, however. While undoubtedly the players have just got on with the new laws and adapted accordingly, this matter is no mere media tittle-tattle. It is of vital importance to the future of rugby union.

No other frontline professional sport is currently engaged in experimenting with new laws. Worse still, with different variations between the two hemispheres.

For the record, the autumn Test series will be played with the northern hemisphere rules, which no doubt will give the home Unions a slight advantage.

The IRB is voting in May 2009 on whether to implement some, all or none of the ELVs, now being trialled globally, into rugby law.

Interestingly, the Rugby Football Union is giving everyone involved in English rugby the chance to have their say on the Experimental Law Variations being trialled this season.

A website survey – www.rfusurvey.co.uk – is launched today and the results will be used as part of the RFU’s report to the International Rugby Board, who will vote on whether to implement the ELVs into rugby law in May 2009. The RFU believes that some of the 13 ELVs could fundamentally change the nature of the game as it is currently known and that all those potentially affected by their introduction should be consulted.

The survey, which will be open until December 16, is for players, coaches, referees, administrators and supporters and follows last season's initial survey before the ELVs were introduced, which prompted a massive 18,000 respondents in just three weeks.

RFU Chief Executive Francis Baron said: "As these Experimental Law Variations could potentially result in major changes to the Laws of the Game, the RFU believes it is important to consult those involved in the game at every level and give them an opportunity to express their views.

“This online survey will form a major part of our report to the IRB on what impact the ELVs have had on English rugby this season. The responses last time demonstrated just how many people care passionately about this game of ours.” The questionnaire can be accessed at www.rfusurvey.co.uk or on the RFU website homepage at www.rfu.com.

To date, the opportunity to voice widespread opinion is not available in Ireland, so perhaps some Irish supporters may wish to have their say on the RFU poll. Despite O’Driscoll’s flippancy, the game’s future is at stake.

Tincu should take his ban on the chin

The name of Marius Tincu may mean little to many rugby supporters across Europe, but the fate of the Romanian hooker threatens to shake the Heineken Cup to its core.

Tincu this week received an 18-week ban for eye-gouging Ospreys prop Paul James during the Pool Three match on October 13.

The length of ban was exactly the same meted out to former Ulster flanker Neil Best for his indiscretion involving Wasps flanker James Haskell while playing for Northampton Saints last month.

But while Best and the Saints have taken the punishment on the chin after losing their appeal, Perpignan are threatening to pull out of the Heineken European Cup if their appeal against Tincu’s suspension, which the French club called “grotesque,” falls on deaf ears.

Perpignan should not be given the opportunity. If they do not respect the laws governing the competition, and the independent disciplinary commission, they should be kicked out instead.

There is no place in this sport for eye-gouging. It is a heinous act and with it comes the unthinkable danger of a player losing an eye.

And while the Catalan club have every right to launch an appeal, if the punishment is upheld, it must be respected. Otherwise we’ve no game at all.

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