The observant among you will have noticed that the southern hemisphere rugby jamboree otherwise known as the Super 14 is back with us this weekend and once again there's a twist.
Last year, of course, the competition was pretty much ruined by Graham Henry's decision to hold back his beloved All Blacks from the fray for first half of the tournament, insisting instead that they undertake a physical conditioning programme specifically tailored to ensure that winning the 2007 Rugby World Cup would be a mere formality. Hmmmm.
This year the fly in the ointment is that Super 14 players are being used as guinea pigs to trial the pithily named Experimental Variation Laws (ELVs) that have been doing the rounds in various junior rugby leagues for some time now. To add a touch more confusion, some of the ELvs are not being trialled, including the frankly insane proposals that teams may collapse mauls and handle in rucks.
Commentators, mainly from Australia it must be said, insist that the ELVs will make the game more open and exciting (I've had my say on this previously so won't bore you with further rants) and will help revive the sport of Rugby Union. Of course we've been hearing for years anyway that the rugby played in the southern hemisphere is of a far higher quality and excitement than up here in the north, which begs the question: Why exactly does the sport needs reviving? Judging by the attendance figures that both the club and international games attract in Europe I'd say that rugby is in a positively rude state of health here. Dare I suggest that, rather than a lack of excitement, it's a lack of success that accounts for the game's travails down under? No wonder they want to change the rules.
Anyway, setting aside the issue of the ELVs (which, incidentally, turn any predictions as to the competition's outcome into a lottery) here's a a rather unique view of the forthcoming Super 14 from from Jed Thian of the Alternative Rugby Commentary: