Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Lies, damned lies, and statistics

SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE PLAYERS REJECT LAW AMENDMENTS
According to a recent poll, nearly 20 per cent of rugby players in the Southern Hemisphere believe that the ELVs have had a negative impact on the game.

Really? Well, no, not really at all but the spin I've put on the figures recently publicised is only slightly more ridiculous than that being perpetuated by the southern hemisphere press.

"Southern hemisphere players endorse law amendments" they say, or "Rugby players have voted overwhelmingly in favour of the ELVs." What they mean, in fact, is that in a poll of 264 professional players, 83 per cent thought the ELVs had a positive impact on the game and 88 per cent thought they had created more continuity.

So 219 professional rugby players from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa say that the new laws are positive and the world of rugby is supposed to just roll over and say fine, let's endorse the whole package now?

I'm not saying the players' opinions aren't worth listening to - far from it - but 219 out of a world rugby playing population of lord knows how many is hardly a representative sample.

For better or for worse the rugby world has agreed, democratically, to trial 13 new laws from 1st August this year. Rather than just let us get on with it, however, the pro-ELV lobby at the IRB appears to want to pre-determine the outcome of such a trial (the main reason, I believe, why the northern hemisphere has so far rejected calls to introduce the 'free kick intead of penalty' provisions).

The bully-boy tactics of John O'Neill having patently failed, it looks as if we now face a war of attrition by means of a largely meaningless statistical bombardment...

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

Another apparently irrelevant statistic is that 80% of voters in the RFU's online survey were opposed to the new law allowing the maul to be pulled down.

Anyway, I don't care whether it's allowed; I won't be pulling down any mauls because I don't want a bunch of 17 stone forwards falling on me with elbows and knees 'accidentally' crashing into my ribs. Just like 99% of other players, i have to get up on monday mornings to go to work.

Cheers

Michael

Total Flanker said...

NON-WORKING RUGBY PLAYERS ENDORSE ELVs! In a shocking development, according to a recent survey 1% of rugby players admitted that they didn't have to get up to go to work on Monday mornings and therefore didn't have any objection to mauls being collapsed on top of them. This is being seen in the southern hemisphere as a major endorsement of the ELVs...etc

Matt @ Green and Gold Rugby said...

They may only represent SANZAR, but they have at least played under some ELVs. Unlike anyone else.

That's one pretty good reason to listen to them.

Total Flanker said...

Not true Matt. Various trials have taken place around the world before SANZAR cherry picked the ones they wanted to trial in the Super 14. We're told by the IRB that the trials were successful but what the hell does that mean? Did anyone think to ask the players?

As I said - the opinions of professional players are absolutely valid but to spin the stats in this way is pretty pathetic. Almost 20% of SANZAR players think that the ELVs have had a negative effect for a start.

Stomper said...

TF,

All these surveys are irrelevant...

There is only one survey that needs to be conducted and that goes along the lines of...

Mr Murdoch,

How much are you prepared to pay for the broadcast rights for the 3N, 6N, and RWC if they are played under "old" laws? How much under the ELVs?


That should sort it!

Anonymous said...

Stomper, I don't care what Mr Murdoch thinks of it. For a start, professional rugby isn't anything like as
important to the game as some people think; even if the professional game goes bankrupt, millions of people around
the world will still turn up at the weekend to play as amateurs or watch because they love the game. I'm even pretty
sure most professionals would happily get jobs and play on as amateurs if the professional game went bust (although it's
difficult to think of a real job for Gavin Henson; any hairdressers needing a model?) Murdoch pays for the TV rights
because people like to watch rugby; millions of new viewers in Europe have been brought to the game without the ELVs
and the same can be achieved anywhere else in the world.

Anyway, rugby has done well enough in Europe without ELVs; the World Cup generated huge interest in Europe and new
rugby countries are coming through to threaten the old order; witness Georgia's match against Ireland last year.

The professional game in Europe is in rude health. The amateur game is doing well, even though it's getting difficult
to find volunteers at club level, but that's a problem that every sport is facing and is largely to do with changes
in society.

In one country, RU faces really tough competition from Rugby League; Australia. Now if John O'Neill and his
colleagues would stop whingeing and blaming England for all their troubles, grow up and get out on the road to sell the
game in schools and colleges, as the Argentinian, Georgian and Portuguese unions seem to be capable of doing, then
he wouldn't have to worry so much about the competition from RL.

If the IRB really wanted to be innovative and help the game to grow they'd have had the guts to take the World Cup to Japan
in 2011, thereby attracting massive new Asian audiences to the game, instead of doing a backroom deal between the
biggest unions.

And I'm still not going to be pulling down any mauls; if any coach tells me to do that, I'll grab him by the neck and
tell him to f*cking well do it himself.

Cheers

Michael

Total Flanker said...

On the collapsing the mauls point, I can envisage a few pe-match conversations at grassroots level between the two captains and the ref where it's agreed to ignore that particular new law...

BigDai said...

Unfortunately, we're not allowed to do that. Changes to the standard laws can only be agreed at competition level.
If anything goes wrong with non-standard law variation then it would be unpleasant liability issues

Anonymous said...

Bigdai, unfortunately you might be right there, but if something goes wrong with the maul under the ELV, given that
collapsing mauls has always been called 'dangerous play' up to now, surely that would lead to unpleasant liability issues too?

This goes to the heart of the issue; something which up to now has been called dangerous by the IRB and unions is, at a stroke of a pen, suddenly termed as being safe?!?!?!?!

The English RFU are saying the maul ELV won't be applied in junior rugby as they doubt it's safety. So in other words, the rest of us are all guinea pigs now.

cheers
Michael

Total Flanker said...

So a liability issue exists if we continue to play under a law which we've played under safely for many years, which exists today, which will continue to exist until the 31st of this month, but which gives way to a far less safe law on 1st August.

I'd fancy my chances in a court of law on that one Dai!

Anonymous said...

My other objection to the maul being ruined is because I'm a back; an inside centre to be precise. I'll try not to go too deep into the intricacies of back play, but here's why;

The popular myth propagated by TV commentators that backs always want 'quick ball' needs to be dumped. What backs really want is to get the the ball with the opposition backpedalling and the back row tied up at the breakdown. It doesn’t matter if they’re going backwards at 1mph or 20 mph, as the centre can bring in some pace and build on the momentum gained by our friends in the pack. The whole point of backs is that we’re supposed to run fast, so we shouldn’t be expecting the forwards to inject pace on top of all the pushing, jumping, eye-gouging and farting that they have to do already.

A high speed ruck producing 'quick ball' tends to leave both attacking and defending backs in chaos, with back row players cluttering up both lines. Invariably, the inside centre's choices are to clatter into the defenders (good fun for crash centres like me but of limited entertainment value and leading to yet another chaotic ruck), or to give the outside centre a hospital pass (great if he's just been trying it on with your wife, but not a good way to win matches). Or, of course, kick aimlessly into the distance as has been the tactic in too many international matches lately.

However, a well constructed and directed maul moves upfield just fast enough to put defending backs on the back foot, ties up the defending back row and keeps defending half backs close to the maul; they have to cover close as they can't see when the ball's going to come out so they can't second-guess the moves). Add to that, it moves forward just slowly enough to give us backs enough time to form an attacking line, agree who makes the break and straighten out our hair ready for the girls with their cameras.

Michael (I'll get myself a proper ID soon as I quite like this site)

Total Flanker said...

Michael - your welcome here DESPITE being a back!:)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that TF. Given my recently gained status of ‘veteran’ and my enjoyment of wine and salami, I’m turning into a very ‘forwardy’ back these days. Gone are the days of the sleek, blond-maned, 13 stone twinkle-toed winger; I’ve become a 16 stone bald centre who can manage one sprint per half, crash into his opposite number a few times and then let some kid come on as sub for the last 20 minutes while I execute my third sprint of the day; to the bar in time to grab a drink and watch the rest of the game. I’ve already propped at tens this year and in another couple of years my inevitable journey toward the sweaty, smelly engine room of the 2nd team pack will be complete.

Michael

Matt @ Green and Gold Rugby said...

Sorry TF, which professional, representative level rugby players were they who trialled the ELVs? I missed it. I was aware of a few club level trials in South Africa, and then in the ARC (where they also endorsed them), but nowhere else.

As to my point, I guess the first provincial level lot who did try it would be qualified in some way to comment?

At the end of the day, this is all classic Adoption of Innovation theory stuff. 85% of any standard population will oppose innovation. I was skeptical at the beginning of the S14, but was sold by the end.

HOWEVER, they didn't have the pulling down law in them, and on that one I'm still to be sold as well. I guess the thinking is that most mauls collapse anyway, might as well discourage them?? I don't get it.

But the maul rule being FUBAR doesn't sink the rest. From what I've seen the sane ELVs haven't revolutionised rugby beyond recognition, just re-balanced attack and defence, which had got out of whack in the professional era.

As Stomper pointed out so well, this has happened all the way through rugby's existence, and I'm sure there were stick in the muds getting frothed up then as well!

Total Flanker said...

Matt - who said anything about professional representaive level players? Are you saying that they are the only voices we should listen to?

Matt @ Green and Gold Rugby said...

Fine, let's say it doesn't matter whether they're professional or not.

I'm aware of 3 trials and I know that in the two of those they asked, the players endorsed it. It may well be they did in the first as well, I just haven't seen the data.

I guess both of their voices are irrelevant?

BigDai said...

Anonymous,
The view of most NH referees, coaches and players is that the maul is an important and integral part of the game. A better is display on team work on sports field I it hard think of.
Sadly, as a ref my job is to apply the all laws, not the ones we fancy on the day. If a maul is collapsed legally (it is still illegal to collapse by taking legs out) and someone gets hurt, unfortunate as that may be, then I am protected

Anonymous said...

Matt at green and gold, I’m happy to give MOST of the ELVs a go too. I’m not convinced by them, but let’s see; they might just work. However, the maul law is contradictory to everything I’ve been told about by refs, coaches and senior players about staying on my feet and avoiding collapses since I started playing mini rugby 29 years ago.

How can something which has been declared ‘dangerous play’ at all levels of the game suddenly, with the stroke of a pen, become safe? A couple of trials with elite players where, perhaps purely through luck, no elite athlete was seriously injured, is simply not good enough to convince me that it’s safe to pull a huge weight of bodies down onto the ground, or even onto oneself, especially at the lower levels where people are simply more breakable and less flexible than the top players, and don’t have the same level of technical skill. It’s irresponsible of the IRB to even ‘trial’ something which they have always categorically stated is dangerous, for the same reasons as it’s still illegal to collapse a scrum.

Aside from that, as I’ve already explained, I think mauls are actually better for producing exiciting back play than rucks, and also provide fun and games for slow lumbering forwards, who have just as much right to enjoy the game as anyone else, but that’s a side issue compared to the obvious safety issue.

Michael

Total Flanker said...

Matt - I confess I've seen nothing to say that, other than in the S14 (and even then the way the figures are reported is seriously flawed), the players have endorsed the ELVs. If they have done so then OK - but I'd like to see the figures.

SANZAR picked the laws they wanted to trial. We in the NH have more or less done the same amd most agree tha the 5m scrum law and the no passing into 22 law might be good ideas. Yet because we won't trial the free kick provisions we're met with criticism and threats from people who cherry-picked their own laws and claims that all players endorse the laws.

If it's to be a true trial then ok - let's get on with it - but what many of us fear is that once a law is trialled there's virtually no chance of repealing it given the clamour for adpotion from down south.

BigDai said...

The way that the RFU have decided not to trail the maul collapse at U19 level suggests that it won't make it through the trail.
Watching the 3N, it looks like there is no statistical evidence about injuries because so few mauls take place.
It will take just one serious injury for all hell to break loose.

Anonymous said...

…and of course it’s difficult to stomach John O’Neill’s rants given his bigoted outbursts at the World Cup. First he brings shame upon himself and his union by talking about his hatred of another country, and then expects the very same country to help him out by trialling the ELVs. In fact he brought shame on the game; lots of new rugby viewers in Europe were pretty shocked by his outburst; ‘hate’ might be a joke in Australia but it’s a pretty loaded word in most European languages given the history. Not exactly a brilliant communicator is he?

Matt, If you know about managing change, you'll know that people don't like the feeling that they're having something shoved down their throats. A staged and gradual process where people feel their concerns are being heard and taken seriously by the unions and IRB, sorry I'll rephrase that, where paying members of clubs an unions feel they're being taken seriously, would work more effectively than some bigoted gobshite threatening to throw all his toys out of the pram.

Michael

Anonymous said...

Bigdai,
I’m sure you’re legally covered as a ref, but I’m not sure whether the unions will get away with it in court should a serious injury occur. Of course, knowing you’re covered by the laws might not be enough to soothe your conscience if, heaven forbid, somebody were to be seriously injured in a maul collapse in a game you’re refereeing. Perhaps it’s better for refs if grassroots captains agree among themselves not to collapse mauls, without involving the ref or putting him under pressure to go against the decrees of his union. It’s certainly a big point of discussion at our club in the Netherlands, where we constantly have to try to persuade parents and potential new players that rugby’s not a particularly dangerous game and they’ve nothing to fear if they come and have a go, not to mention the problem of finding an insurer who’ll provide disability cover for a game many of them class as ‘dangerous’. I really feel our efforts to bring new people to the game are being undermined here.

I’m afraid I can’t go on reassuring people about the risks of the game while the IRB push through a law allowing something they have always told us is dangerous and which the RFU will not allow for u-19s. It’s a shame as there’s so much growth potential for the game in continental Europe, as there was so much positive interest generated by the World Cup. People who’d never seen a rugby match were impressed by the mutual respect shown by players and refs (the odd blazer excepted), the sportsmanship, the skill and athleticism and the good behaviour of the fans in a game they’d previously thought was just a big fight on a pitch. Our club gained 7 new members last season (5 men, 2 women) who’d seen the World Cup on TV and wanted to have a go. Lots of parents who were sick of the nonsense and play acting at soccer games started inquiring, but all of them had one big question; is it safe? Unfortunately, I don’t know what to say to them any more.

Michael