DUBLIN, December 2 – The International Rugby Board (IRB) announced on Tuesday that rules governing the breakdown, which some pundits say are ruining the sport, would remain in force but that a laws review would start in 2010.As things stand the tackler at the breakdown is, provided he then gets on to his feet, allowed to compete for the ball.
Critics allege this has swung the balance too far in favour of the defending side, with referees more likely to now penalise the attacking team for ensuing ruck infringements such as holding on.
This, it is argued, has led to sides kicking away ball for fear of being caught in possession and so made Test match rugby union in particular less of an entertaining spectacle for fans.
But defenders of the current set-up insist that teams that want to attack can still attack, citing New Zealand’s 39-12 win over France and Australia’s 33-12 victory against Wales last weekend as evidence.
However, IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said in a statement on Tuesday that there is "concern about the attractiveness of the game at the elite level".
At an interim meeting of its ruling council at the global governing body’s Dublin headquarters on Tuesday, the IRB said the current application of the rulings relating to Laws 15 and 16 covering the tackle/ruck would be adopted into law with immediate effect.
During November’s internationals England were widely criticised for the paucity of their attacking game.
Senior figures within English rugby tried to suggest the laws, as much as the players and management, were a key part of the problem.
England also argued the breakdown was contributing to an unacceptably high level of injuries.
Representatives of England’s Rugby Football Union (RFU) put those points to the IRB council.
But an IRB statement said: "Council also noted concerns raised by the Rugby Football Union regarding the tackle/ruck area and agreed that in light of a lack of informative data and evidence to suggest clear safety concerns across Unions, that the tackle/ruck be captured by the upcoming review."
The planned review is due to start "early in 2010", said the IRB.
Although it had been thought no law changes would be in effect before the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, the review opens up the possibility that alterations could be made before the tournament.
The IRB statement said the "full participation" of leading international teams would be "central to the process" within the context of a "specialist laws consultation group".
This framework would also "pave the way for an evaluation structure and trials if recommended".
Lapasset said: "We are all committed to ensuring that the game is as enjoyable to play, officiate and watch as possible.
"Rugby is currently in good health with participation growing around the world, but there is concern about the attractiveness of the game at the elite level," the Frenchman added.
"There is collective responsibility to ensure that a structured process can be implemented to allow for global analysis and to monitor trends relating to the shape and character of the game.
"The framework agreed by the IRB council will…ensure that decisions made are in the best interest of rugby (union) worldwide," Lapasset said.
The IRB council also approved a request from the RFU to trial Goalscan technology in a sanctioned competition to indicate whether a kick at goal was successful or not.