Entertainment is the theme as IRB introduces Experimental Law Variations Was that a collective sigh of relief from Hong Kong's rugby community when they heard the International Rugby Board had only approved 13 of the 23 Experimental Law Variations (ELVs) for a 12-month global trial? Bernie Fienberg smiles and nods. While Hong Kong will fall into place with the rest of the world and use the 13 ELVs for the 2008-09 season which kicks off today, the city's chief custodian of the game is thankful the one which could have had the biggest effect on the players won't be in play. 'Thank heavens the short-arm [reduction of sanctions from penalty kicks to free kicks] will not be in use. That would have caused a lot of problems in Hong Kong, where the players are not too fit. Even the referees would have struggled,' admits Fienberg, the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union's referee manager. In a bid to make the game faster and more entertaining - especially for television - the IRB has trialled a number of laws apparently designed to modernise the game. Does rugby need it? Purists and traditionalists say the game is becoming too much like rugby league and blame the Australian Rugby Union for foisting these ELVs on the game as they bid to combat the popularity of the 13-man code Down Under. Others point the finger at New Zealand, saying the inability of the All Blacks to win the World Cup in recent times must naturally mean there is something wrong with the game - and not the players. Proponents of the ELVs believe it is a breath of fresh air. They say it opens up play, speeds it up and makes it more interesting to watch. The recently concluded Tri-Nations series won by New Zealand was a glowing endorsement for the ELVs, they point out. 'You will always get the traditionalists who cry foul. But one thing is for sure, the game will speed up considerably,' says Fienberg, who has held seminars and explained to top clubs how the ELVs will work. 'But since the most radical change - the sanctions law - will not be in play, I believe the law which will have the most impact locally will be the one where you are allowed to pull the maul down,' Fienberg said. Easier said than done, for it can only be done by grasping an attacking player in a rolling maul from shoulder to hip. If the tackler tries to take his legs out, it is a penalty. Even Hong Kong Football Club's forwards, who ruled the roost last season, found it difficult to pull down the maul in pre-season practice games. 'Our pack struggled to drag the maul down,' says Peter McKee, Football Club's new captain and scrumhalf. 'I don't think the game is going to change much here, although it could have, if the short-arm sanctions had been in play. It's a shame it isn't in use as I love to take quick taps.' The game has evolved over the centuries. In 1877, they used to play 20-a-side and no points were given for scoring a try but only when the ball - a round one - was kicked over the posts. Points for a try was first introduced in 1889 - one for a try and two for a conversion - and an oval ball was first used in 1892. In 1971, a try was worth four points and a conversion two, a system which was in place for the first two World Cups in 1987 and 1991. It was only in 1992, in a bid to encourage more open play and tries, that a try was rewarded with five points. Rugby's myriad offences at the breakdown was mystifying for many and was one of the reasons for the IRB formulating the ELVs. 'Players are fitter, stronger and quicker and therefore the referee's decision-making time gets shorter and shorter,' said IRB referee manager Paddy O'Brien, one of the brains behind the ELVs, in an interview with the BBC. 'We wanted to go back to a blank page because we don't believe the laws are keeping up with the modern game. 'If I took my wife to some tennis I could explain the basics in five minutes, but I think with rugby union at the moment that's not the case. Some of the laws are becoming unrefereeable. We want to make the game easier to play, coach and referee - and to watch,' O'Brien said. That's the crux of the issue. The IRB wants to make the game attractive to television viewers. They want end-to-end stuff - similar to basketball - much to the dismay of the purists who moan that with it becoming so fast it is no longer a game for all shapes and sizes. Hong Kong captain Semi Iafeta, who plays and coaches with Causeway Bay, is unsure how it will pan out in Hong Kong, and if the game will be more attractive to watch. 'The only way we will find out is once we start playing. There are bound to be some teething problems and I don't know whether to be nervous or excited about the ELVs. Hopefully, it will make the game a lot more enjoyable for the players and the fans,' Iafeta said. The 13 ELVs 1 - Players are able to defend a maul by pulling it down. 2 - A player's head and shoulders may be lower than his hips in a maul. 3 - There is no restriction on the number of players who can participate in the lineout from either side, but you need a minimum of two. 4 - A quick throw may be thrown in straight or towards the throwing team's own goal line. 5 - The scrumhalf at a lineout must stand two metres from the lineout. 6 - The players who are in opposition to the player throwing in the ball may stand in the area between the five-metre line and touch line, but must be two metres away from the lineout. 7 - Lineout players may pre-grip a jumper before the ball is thrown in. 8 - The lifting of lineout jumpers is permitted. 9 - Introduction of an offside line five metres behind the scrum. 10 - Scrumhalves must be in close proximity to the scrum or must retreat five metres. 11 - If a team put the ball back into their own 22 and the ball is subsequently kicked directly into touch, there is no gain in ground. 12 - The corner posts are no longer considered to be in touch in goal except when a ball is grounded against the post. 13 - Assistant referees (touch judges) can assist the referee in any manner required.