Warning: The following news may well cause an involuntary physical spasm where you fall off your chair in total surprise.
The IRB have announced five new law amendments that seem to make perfect sense!
On the back of world football's governing body FIFA finally bowing to the common sense called "goal-line technology", the IRB have formalised trials for eight separate rule changes, five on-field and three off the field.
The most significant adjustment once again centres around the always-confusing ruck with administrators appearing hell-bent on trying everything possible to speed the game up, this time by deliberately stopping static ball.
Amendment #1 (involving Law 16.7, "Ruck") says the ball has to be used within five seconds of it being made available at the back of a ruck, this following an audible warning from the referee to "use it".
The current situation where the ball sits in full view behind the last man's legs waiting-waiting, while the team in possession organise everything from their attack/defence options to where the squad might book for dinner afterwards, is the bain of the sport.
Not only does the game grind to an absolute halt but, in a contest where barely 30 minutes of actual action takes place over the scheduled 80 minutes anyway, it achieves little bar the frustration of wasting time and winding down the clock.
The only concern I would raise is, by necessity, it creates yet another circumstance where the referee has to tell the players what to do.
We all know that rugby is already seriously over-reffed.
The constant sound of refs chirping away at players, everything from "stay onside/hands off/roll away/crouch-touch etc", is something you'd hope the powers-that-be are trying to decrease, not increase.
Still, if it means quicker ball and more of it in-play then I suppose we can't complain.
Amendment #2 (Law 19.2 b, "Quick throw-in") involves an equal amount of pure common sense.
The change simply allows a quick throw-in to be taken anywhere outside the field of play between the line of touch and the player's goal line.
What it potentially might mean is more long-range tries using super-speedy outside backs to catch their opposition out of position and on the hop.
What it'll absolutely rely on is referee's that are so "up with the play" they can both appreciate the attacking possibilities while ignoring the inevitable protestations to let such throws happen - that, as always, remains to be seen.
Amendment #5 is not something I thought was an ongoing problem, but dictates that a conversion must be completed within 90 seconds from when a try has been awarded.
The other two on-field adjustments are of the super-technical variety, the sort that deserve consideration and/or mention only on those nights when the phonebook is finished and sleep still impossible.
Two of the off-field amendments do deserve mention though.
An increase in the Test match reserve bench from seven to eight players to me misses the point.
Isn't it time rugby just bit the bullet and stole yet another great idea from rival-code league and allowed the subs bench to become an inter-change?
Finally I do fully endorse the proposal to extend the powers of the TMO to "incidents within the field of play that have led to the scoring of a try".
The current situation, where the man upstairs can rule on the grounding of the ball but not the forward pass that preceded it, defies logic.
So good on you IRB, it's all pointing in the right direction.
If I might make though two more suggestions while you're at it:
1.) Introduce the 40/22 kick a la league where the attacking side is rewarded with possession into the lineout. Rare as hen's teeth anyway, not only will it re-introduce the dead-art called "wipers kicks" but also provide a valuable alternative to overcoming a flat-rush defence.
2.) Re-introduce that brilliant old law at ruck-time where the "team going forward, retains possession". It instantly ensures that numbers have to be committed to breakdowns both in attack and defence, increased bodies meaning greater chance of keeping the ball - and isn't getting forwards out of the backline and into the contact area half of what every change the game keeps making is ultimately trying to achieve anyway?
Do you agree with Martin Devlin? What do you think of the new law changes? Add your comment below.