Sunday, May 11th, 2008...2:32 pm

ELVs – Paddy O’Brien’s videos support my arguments!

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Paddy O’Brien – IRB Referee Manager  : His bio.   

Paddy posted three YouTube videos explaining the Stellenbosch ELVs, (posting date October 2007).   

In video3 Paddy lists statistics from the ELV studies. The statistics are from three surveyed competitions:

  •       – Scotlands Super Cup 2007 ( 8 games) – ELVs applied
  •       – Six Nations 2007 – ELVs NOT applied
  •       – Super 14 Rugby 2007, round 7 only – ELVs NOT applied. 

      STATISTICS  (Average per game)     Super Cup      Six Nations       Super 14

  • – Average ruck and maul count                143                    167                  134
  • – Average scrum count                               21                    17                    20
  • – Average tries scored                                9                        4                      5
  • – Average time ball in play                          59%                 46%                 41%
  • – Average lineout count                              28                     31                    31

The role out of the Stellenbosch ELVs is in effect a world wide product launch for a multi billion dollar business, and should be subject to the same detailed analysis that any Fortune 500 company would undergo. 

ARGUMENT1 – SCOPE FLAWED: In the posting ELVs – The ELV Committee flawed, scope flawed. I made the argument that the scope issued to the committee was flawed, in video1 Paddy states that rugby union must be: ‘ball in player longer’, ‘easier to understand’, ‘easier to ref’ and ‘for all shapes and sizes’. Paddy stated clearly that the committee had no restrictions, rugby unions laws could be rebuilt up from a blank piece of paper. This alone is fraught with extreme risk if the scope is proved too be narrow and I believe that is to be the case. The ELV design scope had no words like: ‘strategies’, ‘styles’, ‘tactics’, ‘point of difference’ or ‘must be interesting’. The overriding focus seams to be on having ‘more tries’ and ‘not on how interesting the tries were scored’.

ARGUMENT2 – MAUL ENDANGERED SPECIES: In the posting ELVs – Endangered Species: Maul and Lineout I stated that the maul is not in favour, and if the maul is allowed to be pulled down it will soon be extinct. The fact that the maul did not warrant a separate column in Paddy statistics is enough evidence that it’s the black sheep. Paddy focuses on the example when a maul is used to drive over and score a try as unfair advantage to the attacking team, therefore the maul should be allowed to be pulled down. Based on this lonely example the committee thinks it’s wise to pull down the maul no matter where it resides in the field. This is an over reaction, I think allowing the maul to be pulled down within 10 meters of the try line is an adequate compromise (reluctantly), otherwise the maul should not be pulled down. Paddy also states that in the eight Super Cup games there were no injuries resulting from the maul collapse. I think I can find eight collapsed scrums where there are no injuries, nor do the trial games cover diverse age groups. The maul should not be pulled down (this is my preferred position).

ARGUMENT3 – CLASSICAL BACK LINE CONTEST MINIMISED: In the posting ELVs – ‘The Field Wide Trench Defence’ or ‘FWTD’ I comment that the ELV game has added to the continued destruction of classical backline tactics. With a mix of forwards and backs in the back line and the hard to crack ‘field wide trench defence’ the game often enters into a period of stalemate. I ask the following question to illustrate my point.

Question: What percentage of ELV ‘ball in play’ is available for the pure classical backs versus backs contest (or structured restarts) ? 

(Note: If there is a classical backs versus backs contest, then the forwards must be engaged in there own classical forwards versus forwards contest.)

Restart defined: When the attacking team must reform its back line for the next phase, either after a ruck, lineout (short or long/full), scrum or maul.

Structured restart defined: A play where forwards and backs are completely separated, otherwise known as a classical restart. Examples of structured restarts are: scrum and full lineout, examples of non structured restarts are: rucks, short lineouts, mauls. A maul can be a structured restart if it captures all 16 forwards in the contest.

The math is simple (numbers are sourced from the Super Cup column above).

  • 1) The Super Cup ELV game ‘ball in play’ is 59% which is 47 minutes of an 80 minute game.
  • 2) Let’s assume that of the 28 lineouts, 25% had a full contingent of 16 forwards, so this equals 7 lineouts. This is 7 structured restarts sourced from lineouts.
  • 3) If we add the 7 lineouts with the 21 scrums, we have 28 times where forwards are not mixed with backs. The total number of structured restarts sourced from scrums and lineouts equals 28.
  • 4) Add the 21 scrums and 28 lineouts to the 143 rucks and mauls and we get the total count of structured and non structured restarts (excluding kick offs and 22 drop outs) equalling 192. The total number of all restarts (structured and non structured) is 192.
  • 5) Divide the number of structured restarts (28) by the total number of all restarts (192), and we get a percentage of 15%.
  • 6) 15% represents the portion of the game restarted by structured play.
  • 7) This means that only 7 minutes of the 47 ‘ball in play’ minutes are available for classical forwards versus forwards and backs versus backs restarts.(15% of 47).
  • 8) The remaining 40 minutes represent the period where forwards can be (I agree not all the time) mixed with backs (ie forwards standing in the back line, more so than backs standing in the rucks or lineouts [new ELV allows this]).

Therefore only 7 minutes (15%) for the pure backs versus backs contest per game, how does this promote the need for specialised back skills. This is further evidence where the ELVs have NOT gone far enough to restore the games unique ‘chess like’ contests. This is one of the most disappointing developments of the ELV game.

Further points regarding the 15% or 7 minutes structured ‘ball in play’ per game:

  • 1) This is why in my post ELVs (Experiment Law Variation) – Tactic Review I called for promotion of the maul, full lineouts and the 50/22 rule. To try and get this measly 15% structured ‘ball in play’ to at least a 25% minimum. Why, structured play promotes the specialised skills identified within rugby union and it’s these skills that require players to be ‘all shapes and sizes’. Once again I refer the reader to the Chess vs Checkers post.
  • 2) This is why Ian McGeechan, Laurie Mains, Peter Thorburn and Brian Habana have identified with the statement ‘It looks like league!”.ELVS – ‘Its like league!’ (Laurie Mains), ELVs – Hail the New Caesar (Ian McGeechan)
  • 3) This is why northern hemisphere scribes have called the ELV games ‘glorified touch rugby’, and they have a point.
  • 4) You may argue that the Super Cup 15% is no different from the Six Nations and Super 14 Rugby which are 13% and 15% respectively. True, but remember Paddy started with a blank piece of paper, so why has the committee failed to improve this horrible statistic, the answer is the ELVs design scope was flawed (see post ELVs – The ELV Committee flawed, scope flawed.).
  • 5) You have heard that the ELVs must be considered a success as the ball is in play longer and there are more tries. In this post ELVs – ‘The Field Wide Trench Defence’ or ‘FWTD’ I explain why this is quantity over quality. The back line construction of forwards and backs does not produce more interesting rugby, unfortunately it represents clumsy attacking lines and ‘run and bash’ style tactics.
  • 6) You may argue that its only a percentage and the data in video3 does not reflect the reality of structured play within a game. This is a valid point, once again I remind you that these ELVs are a product role out for a multi billion dollar business, so I suggest Paddy and the committee get some data to prove otherwise. The current analysis (that I have seen, maybe the IRB has ‘board room eyes only data’) would not be acceptable in any board room of a Fortune 500 company.

These questions should be answered with further statistical data:

  • Q1: What percentage of play is sourced from pure structured restarts (detail showing: scrums, fully contested 8 man lineouts, 22 drop outs, kick offs) ?
  • Q2: How many tries are sourced from pure structured plays (described in Q1 above) ?
  • Q3: How many mauls are there?
  • Q4: How many mauls are within 10 meters of the try line?
  • Q5: What percentage of play is involved with forwards and backs in a mixed role (either forwards in the backline or backs in the ruck or lineouts [new ELV allows this])?
  • Q6: What are the ‘ball in play’ statistics when the full classical lineout is used only?
  • Q7: How does the rule 50/22 improve the balance over attack and defence?

(Note: See an explanation of the 50/22 rule in this post: ELVs (Experiment Law Variation) – Tactic Review)

I am in favour of the ELVs but only if the 15% of ‘ball in play’ resulting from classical structured play is considerably improved to at least 25%. Also it should be noted that I have only viewed the Super 14 Rugby 2008 version of ELVs. I have yet to see a professional game with the new lineout and hands in the ruck rules. I doubt that it would change my view.

If an IRB official or commentator says that it is modern rugby to have forwards executing back line moves, and its here to stay, then I am done! I will watch rugby league as they do a better job!

Paddy does expressly say that the world wide ELV trials are experimental, lets hope they are!

I believe Paddy is a good bloke and just needs to be shown the light, I hope some of you can show him the way. If any of you has the ear of the Paddy, any rugby CEO or IRB member could you please forward this posting (and foundation posts) to them. Thanks.

The End.


Source : (Robbie) Deans wants S14 ELVs for Tri-Nations


 …”The fear that the ELVs would fundamentally change the nature of the game has also been unfounded, says Deans.

Instead the coach feels it has promoted attacking rugby, while still maintaining the importance of the set-piece because of the option of a free-kick or scrum instead of a penalty for most infringements.

‘There’s a little bit of difference in so far as the ball can be in play a little bit longer and that teams that want to can choose to take the initiative if they want to and take quick free-kicks,” he said.”If the pendulum has swung slightly in any way back towards the team that’s prepared to attack that’s good.

He added: “It’s also probably reinforced the need for props. There was a concern for some parties that blokes of that shape would fall out of the game but it’s probably quite the opposite.” …

MY COMMENTS: Not change the game fundamentally, I agree with that, but I think his sun glasses are little foggy, the ‘ruck’ count has boomed and it dominates the game. The Hurricanes vs Western Force (9-5-2008) had 190 rucks, that is 190 chances for forwards and backs to have mixed roles.

Robbie Deans refers to the attacking set piece as the scrum, and the scrum only. His subconscious has confirmed that lineouts are not favored as attacking set piece (as short lineouts allow forwards to stand in the back line).

The pendulum has not swung towards attack, it has not budged from defense as the ‘field wide defensive trench’ dominates around the ruck. I believe it is still valid that defense will win the big games. The Super 14 Rugby finals will be very interesting.

The need for props is true, but not the Os Du Rant model, more the Kees Mews model, Os would need to run 3 km under 15 minutes or he is out of a job.

I think his comments are more spin, as Graham Henry has had little game time with the ELVs.


Source: Seismic difference between SH and NH rugby  – Brian Moore 12/May/08 Daily Telegraph

The weekend’s rugby proved conclusively, to me at any rate, that basing an assessment of the attractiveness of a game on the number of tries scored and/or the amount of time the ball is in play, is a facile and misleading exercise.A comparison of the Premiership games and the Super 14 games I watched on Friday night highlighted a seismic difference both in the type of game now played in the northern and southern hemispheres and in what is considered entertaining rugby.In front of a sell-out crowd, the first half of the Gloucester game yielded just one try, but was pulsating. Several clear chances created by Bath came from the direct driving and handling of the forwards, allowing a backline that was sparked by their classy half-backs to look for and find gaps. Desperate defence kept Bath from crossing the line and the courage and ability of Iain Balshaw rightly drew cheers several times; why he cannot replicate this form for England is something only a psychiatrist can answer.Further, crucial turnovers were won by Gloucester because they hurled men into nearly every breakdown and battled for the ball in loose play. This produced massive roars from the faithful – ergo a crowd of down to earth non-academics are capable of understanding and drawing immense enjoyment from something other than a simplified game and a plethora of tries.The one try that did come was a classic. Angles, timing, James Simpson-Daniel and no fat boys clogging up the space – it nearly brought the roof off.

Contrast this with the Bulls v Brumbies Super 14 game. It had a multiplicity of play that had over 10 phases, but at virtually none of these was there even the pretence of competition for the ball. Instead, we had 14 men strung out across the field and no space – ergo the time the ball is in play is also not synonymous with enjoyment.
The complete reverse is true; although nominally in play, I would argue that where there is no competition for the ball, it is as good as dead.Further proof of the ‘ball in play’ fallacy came from the inexplicable approach taken by Bath in the second half. Having achieved momentum and created good chances in the first half, they decided on a complete change of tactics. After the break they had almost no possession in the Gloucester half, zero momentum and one half-chance, but this did not seem sufficient proof for them to ditch their policy of kicking every ball as far as they could. This meant that Gloucester had little to do, other than field unchallenged kicks and return the ball; which they duly did. The ball was in play for ages, but it was as dull as the first half was exciting.If the International Rugby Board want to look at a fresh approach to the laws of the game, why not try applying them properly; introduce a ‘use it or lose it’ call that referees can apply to stop teams keeping the ball at the back of the ruck while they organise their attack, or just waste time trying to run down the clock. It might work.”

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