SYDNEY - A range of new rules promoting attacking rugby will "super-charge" the southern hemisphere's Super 14 competition next year, the governing body announced last week.
The tournament will become the highest level testing ground for some of the International Rugby Board's new Experimental Law Variations (ELVs) designed to speed up the game and increase spectator appeal.
The Super 14 involves provincial sides from South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, with the organising grouping of the national rugby unions known as Sanzar.
"We're introducing the new laws to Super 14 to super-charge Super rugby," Australian Rugby Union deputy chief executive Matt Carroll told a Sanzar press conference in Sydney. "The Sanzar nations have always been at the forefront of the game and yet again Sanzar is to lead the world."
No decision has yet been made on whether the changes will also be tested in Sanzar's yearly Tri-Nations Test series between the three countries.
The variations adopted for the Super 14 include:
l backlines must be 5m back from the scrum;
l on lineouts, quick throw-ins can now go backwards, towards the own goal line.
l for all offences other than offside and foul play, the sanction is a free kick rather than a penalty; and
l if a player passes or carries the ball from outside to inside his own 22m line and he or a teammate kicks it into touch, the lineout will be from where the ball is kicked out.
New South Wales Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie and captain Phil Waugh endorsed the changes.
"We've been calling for this for a long time so it's great to see it locked in stone," McKenzie said. "It's a big win for attacking rugby. We saw the benefits of the ELVs in the Australian Rugby Championship with more tries being scored and the ball in play for longer.
"That's now going to be translated into the Super 14, which can only be a good thing both for the players and for those watching the game."
Waugh said: "Positive, attacking play has been the result in every competition that has trialled [sic] the ELVs so far. It's great for the players but more so for the fans.
"People want to see action and that's what they'll get as a result of the introduction of the variations in the Super 14."
The Waratahs and Queensland Reds will be among the first Super 14 clubs to play under the law changes when they meet in a pre-season trial at Campbelltown on Australia Day, January 26.
But Sanzar has decided not to introduce some of the more contentious variations developed under the ELVs and tried in this year's Australian Rugby Championship. They include allowing hands in the ruck, pulling down of mauls and unlimited numbers in the lineout. - Sapa-AFP