O'Neill confident north is softening - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

O'Neill confident north is softening

By David Beniuk 11/04/2008 12:42:57 PM Comments (0)

Australian rugby supremo John O'Neill believes northern hemisphere opposition to rugby's experimental laws is softening despite criticism in the English press claiming they threaten the game's identity.

Rugby's controversial experimental law variations (ELVs) - being partially trialed in the Super 14 competition - are back on the agenda at the International Rugby Board's May 1 meeting.

The IRB could rubber stamp a worldwide trial of the rules, which are designed to make the game a more free-flowing spectacle and decrease stoppages, from August 1 to take in the northern hemisphere's domestic and European competitions.

"The feedback from (the Six Nations conference last month) was pretty positive," ARU chief executive O'Neill said.

"A number of the Six Nations went in with negative views but by the end of it there were more countries positive than there were negative.

"Certainly France, Italy and Scotland are very much in favour of the ELVs and I understand that England and Wales have shifted a good bit and that Ireland remain somewhat opposed."

But that feedback hasn't stopped the British press blasting the new rules, claiming Australia is spearheading a plot to destroy the game's fabric.

"(They are) something that might suit the Australians, who have allowed their once all-powerful forward game to wither," Chris Hewett wrote in The Independent overnight.

"If the (English) RFU is sufficiently persuasive, next season's premiership and European rugby will retain its many virtues. If it is not, Super 14 will soon be coming to a rugby ground near you. In which case,we can all give up and go shopping."

In The Times, David Hands wrote: "The law changes are being pushed by Australia, whose profits are down and who remain in a hotly-contested market with league and Australian Rules football."

Hands also quoted an unnamed English official as saying: "Why should a mature sport, in a healthy state, introduce this wholesale experimentation?"

O'Neill is a vocal supporter of the ELVs but vehemently denied an Australia-led conspiracy.

"There seems to be unwarranted concern being expressed by some quarters within the northern hemisphere that this is some southern hemisphere plot which it absolutely isn't," he told AAP.

"I'm at pains to point out this is not a north versus a south issue and there's a lot of propaganda around saying that Australia's driving this because we've got a weak scrum.

"But in fact the statistics in all the trials show that scrummaging is more important than ever under the ELVs.

"The game's a better spectacle but the fundamentals of the game haven't changed."

O'Neill said he is confident of a result on May 1.

"Even if you go for a trial from the first of August. they are still experimental and after a year's trial the ones that haven't worked you can take out," he said.

"It's much easier to take them out rather than to add them in.

"Basically if some decisions aren't taken soon we will run into the next World Cup and there's a convention or a rule which says you can't change the laws of the game 12 months out from a World Cup."

Brought to you by AAP AAP © 2023 AAP

0 Comments about this article

Post a comment about this article

Please sign in to leave a comment.
Becoming a member is free and easy, sign up here.

« All sports news