The introduction of proposed law changes has been postponed until at least next fall or spring 2009.
The International Rugby Board had previously OK'd USA Rugby's request to get started in spring 2008, but then decided otherwise 'due to the delay and constant change', according to a union official. The IRB's Council, or board of directors, had expected to consider approving the revisions in April, but has pushed back the matter until later in the year.
Any springtime debut could be complicated by America's 'split season'. If the half of the country that begins in the fall and then breaks for bad weather competes under two sets of laws, there's room to argue that the season's outcome was influenced by the revisions. Thus the union had planned to limit the 2008 trial to the Super League.
Trial implementations of the 'Experimental Law Variations' (ELVs) have
been given the go-ahead in several competitions around the world, such
as the Southern hemisphere's Super 14 and domestic competition in South Africa, where the ELVs have been trialed most extensively.
Among the most notable changes are requiring backlines to stand five yards away from the scrum, allowing quick lineouts to go backward, and punishing most offenses as free kicks rather than full penalties. The South Africans will go beyond the Super 14 competition, for example by allowing defending players to pull down a maul. The overall aim is to keep ball in play longer and to promote running.
Separately, the IRB trumpeted 2006-07 7s World Series attendance of 250,000. The record total for the 8-venue, 17-day series equates to 2.5 home games for the University of Michigan football team, a reminder that world rugby's scale is not yet to par with domestic standards.
But the 7s World Series television reach is interesting: subsidized programming is delivered to 30 international broadcasters in 11 different languages, reaching 213 million homes in 137 countries, with a potential global cumulative reach of over 530 million people, Dublin said in a press release.