Thursday, May 22nd, 2008...7:24 am

ELVs – Why would these statistics lie?

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Source: More tries and action, thanks to trial laws– Greg Growden

Statistics Super 14 season 2007 vs 2008 (91 matches)


NOTE: (1) These statistics are under 13 and not the full 23 ELVs. Excluded are the ELV laws for lineouts, mauls and hands in the ruck. (2) Average game time is in minutes.

Lets report this with two types of spin, first the ELV cheerleader, and second the objective skeptic.

The ELV Cheerleader: Tries are up 13% per game, with less involvement from the referee determining the game as penalties are down 37%, this must be good as the ball is in play longer by 9% with only a little increase in rucks and mauls by 9%. This must mean more action and an endorsement of the ELVs for our northern friends. With plenty of scrums and lineouts to maintain rugby union identity, these ELVs must be good.

The Objective Skeptic: Lets assume that 40% of all lineouts are long (or have 16 players involved), so we can now calculate the percentage of structured play.

  • -Structured Play Defined: Forwards and backs completely separated
  • -Structured Play for 2007: (20+(31*.40)) / (137+20+31) = 17.2%
  • -Structured Play for 2008: (20+(26*.40)) / (148+20+26) = 15.5%
  • -Formula : (Scrums  + Full Lineouts)/(Scrums + All Lineouts + Rucks and Mauls)

As the ELV Committee started with a blank piece of paper they had every opportunity to improve this statistic. It is this statistics which allows rugby union to have its point of difference from rugby league. The lower it is the lower the point of difference.

The above statistics for 2008 means that 15.5% of the 36 minutes game time was allocated to structured play (forwards and backs were completely separated), the remaining time was available for players to be in non structured play (forwards in the back line, mixed roles). It’s the growth of the player mixed roles which is eroding rugby union identity, and as you correctly say ‘Whats the big deal, structured play has only fallen 1.7% !”. I say this statistic should be at least 25%, as this falling figure sees union getting very close to its cousin league, and this is the reason why the northern view the southern style as ‘glorified touch football’. 

The reason why I harp on about structured play on this blog consistently is because you need structure to:

  • – reset play for fresh execution of tactics
  • – separate forwards and backs to allow a demand for their roles
  • – ensure the specialised skills are not diminished through lack of use
  • – ensure that the game remains for all shapes and sizes.

Yes it is nice (at first) to have more tries and game time, but just because the movie goes on for longer and has more explosions does not mean it’s better, it’s always the story line that leaves an impression. Therefore rugby union focus should not be on more tries, but on how to make the tries scored more interesting. This is done by ensuring rugby union has a wide variety of styles, tactics and characteristics. This is achieved by having the percentage of structured play above 25% per game. I recommend you review my ELV amendments to see how I would do this.

The selection of 40% for long lineouts would be only 10% if the new ELV laws for lineouts was operational. This would lower the level of structured play even further.

(Please read posts Chess vs Checkers , and other Foundation posts for further explanation).

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