Ian Smith has expressed his concern over the advent of the Experimental Law Variations, which come into force next week and says he is suspicious about the motives behind the rule changes.
The Moseley head coach is of the ‘not fixing things that ain’t broke’ school of thought and also believes the sport’s organisers are trying to impose a uniform style where several currently coexist.
But that diverse synergy could change from August 1, the date set by the International Rugby Board to begin the trial of the 13 law changes that have so far had a radical effect on the way recent competitions have been played out in the southern hemisphere.
While some have been long called-for all over the world, such as the empowerment of assistant referees to aid the main official, others are viewed with scepticism. Chief amongst those are the legalisation of pulling down driven mauls, disparity in the numbers of players in lineouts and a change in emphasis when kicking to touch.
“I don’t see a problem with the game we have already got,” Smith said. “This is being brought in by the southern hemisphere and what you must do is not look at the rules themselves, but the mindset behind them. What are they planning to disable us from doing?
“They are trying to keep the ball in play for as long as they can and reduce the role of set-pieces. The Super 14 and Tri Nations have shown that the lineouts have become very disorganised and unpredictable.”
He also maintains difference in the climate and pitch conditions between the two rugby cultures must also shape the development of the game. “We are playing in a season that is pretty wet and windy so you cannot have a game that makes the field look like flat-line sevens, touch rugby - or Rugby League,” he said.
“I understand they have to make it more attractive from their point of view but, from ours we feel it’s fine as it is. We have got to be careful that we do not assimilate ourselves with them.”
Smith is less concerned about free kicks replacing penalties for most decisions but offside and foul play. That, he says, will not change the shape of the game as much as not being able to kick to touch if the ball has been passed back into the 22.
“Key to it all will be how the referees interpret the laws and, as with the current ones, certain officials will have their own nuances. We probably won’t know until November exactly how the changes have impacted because it’ll take that long for referees and players to get used to them.”
Moseley’s first game under the ELVs will be at home to Ebbw Vale on August 17 and their final warm-up will be at Sixways against Worcester on August 23.
New signing Richard Vasey has been charged with heading up the club’s working group to examine the potential impacts wrought and opportunities presented by the new laws.
The former Leeds fly half has impressed Smith: “He has added a lot to our discussions,” Smith said. “He and Andy Reay are looking at how the ELVs affect the backs. He has got a little bit about him, some good basics on the pitch and he is keen to add to what we have got.”
Vasey will be challenged for the starter’s berth by Dan Lavery who has joined on a one-year deal from Stourbridge. Injury kept the former Northampton Academy product from showing his best at Stourton Park with a late-season broken jaw compounding a shoulder problem.
There is, however, concern over scrum half James Ireland, whose recovery from shoulder surgery is taking longer than either club or player would have hoped. The 24-year-old is a major doubt for the start of the National League One season, at home to London Welsh on August 30.
If he does not make it back, Gareth Taylor will rival Gloucester’s dual-registered England Under 18 international Dave Lewis for the right to face the Exiles. Andy Binns, who has recovered from surgery on his back, is expected to be fit having returned to training.