Say what you like about the RFU - incompetent duffers who couldn't organise a gang bang in a brothel, or dastardly conspirators determined to undermine the growth of rugby worldwide - but, whatever they are, they've certainly managed to get one thing right with the news yesterday that the RFU is to canvass grassroots opinion on the ELVs.
What's triggered this move is that the IRB are set hold a media briefing in London on Saturday ahead of a key meeting on 1st May at which the IRB plan to push through plans to introduce the ELVs into northern hemisphere rugby next season.
Fortunately, opposition from English rugby appears to be more or less unanimous, with the RFU expressing reservations and the Premiership clubs in particular being vocal in their disdain. Encouragingly, both the Welsh Rugby Union and the Irish Rugby Union have also voiced grave concerns and Serge Blanco, chief of the professional French clubs, is up in arms over claims that the French game is in favour of the proposed changes.
I've made my own views on the vast majority of the ELVs pretty clear. But the problem isn't that the ELVs are part of some Australian-led conspiracy to turn proper rugby into rugby league - they're not, although watching the Aussies react to that allegation never ceases to amuse. No, the real problem is that the ELVs were dreamt up by a totally unrepresentative bunch of blokes appointed by the IRB who think they've discovered a bunch of problems with the game and have come up with a bunch of ideas to solve them and now appear determined to drive through these solutions despite there being no evidence that they identified the correct problems in the first place or came up with the correct solutions. I'm sure that I could sit down with the guys at my rugby club and produce a list of different problems and different solutions which would be equally as valid.
Of course, when faced with opposition to the ELVs, the IRB's answer is to bombard us with a whole host of stats which "prove" that the game is better off under the ELVs because the ball's in play a bit longer. The stats which show that there are more stoppages in play due to the plethora of free kicks being awarded, meanwhile, are conveniently ignored. It's as if they feel that, because they've invested so much time and effort in coming up with and then trialling these new ideas, they simply have to make sure they become law whatever the consequences.
What no one has done, until now, is ask us - the great unwashed, the players, coaches, referees, administrators, volunteers, supporters and alickadoos at grassroots level - what we think of it all. Until now, that is. I have wondered previously whether anyone had given any thought to the effect of the ELVs on grassroots rugby and now, unbelievably, someone has done just that. The fact that it is the RFU that has come up with this radical idea just goes to show that life can still be full of surprises.
The RFU Survey