Australia ponders rule changes for new national competition

  • Rugby
  • Tuesday, 12 May 2020

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Rugby Australia are looking to tweak rules to speed up the game during the competition to replace Super Rugby that they hope to get up and running in early July.

The governing body said on Monday it was hoping to have plans in place for a 12-week competition with Australia's four Super Rugby teams, the Perth-based Western Force and, potentially, Japan's Sunwolves.

Experimental Law Variations (ELV) were employed in the now defunct Australian Rugby Championship in 2008 and other rule changes, approved by World Rugby, were made for the third tier National Rugby Championship from 2014.

The coaches of the four Super Rugby teams and another committee of former coaches and players have been discussing rule changes and Rugby Australia chairman Paul McLean thinks they could be employed without reference to World Rugby.

"We've done it before with the ELV so I don't see why we can't do it again now," McLean told The Australian newspaper.

"I think what they have planned is very exciting. Besides, the more we start talking about players and the less about RA directors, the better we will all be."

Recent turmoil in the Rugby Australia boardroom has further embattled a sport which has suffered from plenty of negative PR for the last few years and is facing an acute financial crisis.

Australia's crowded sports market means rugby union is constantly looking at ways to improve entertainment value for fans and the long delays for setting scrums and taking place kicks in the modern game often come under fire.

Rugby Australia high performance manager Ben Whitaker suggested on Monday, however, that any rule changes were unlikely to be too radical.

"We feel we want to zero in on some variations that could attract, be entertaining, exciting et cetera and pave the way for the future," he said.

"But we're also mindful that this is Super Rugby and we want to make sure that what we put in place is just that, and also it needs to lend itself to selecting a Wallabies team to play later in the year."

Super Rugby was suspended after round seven of the competition in mid March because of the coronavirus pandemic and a full resumption of play has been deemed impossible due to international travel bans. New Zealand is also planning to restart the game with a "one-country" competition from June.

(Reporting by Nick Mulvenney; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)

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