Changes to the laws of rugby union are to be trialed at their highest level to date when the Super 14 tournament, the southern hemisphere's premier provincial club competition, gets under way this weekend.
Several of the International Rugby Board's Experimental Law Variations (ELVs), which are designed to make the game easier for players and fans to follow and not leave matches at the mercy of a referee's interpretation of the rules, will be on show during the Super 14.
The alterations adopted by tournament governing body SANZAR (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby) relate to the breakdown (tackle and post-tackle) area, the maul, lineout, sanctions, kicking from inside the 22m line and the act of scoring in relation to the corner posts.
"The 2008 Super 14 represents an exciting opportunity for many of the ELVs to be trialed at what will be the highest level of competition to date," IRB chairman Bernard Lapasset said in a statement issued by the global governing body from its headquarters in Dublin on Monday.
"The IRB is delighted that SANZAR has consented to this trial and we are looking forward to seeing some of the biggest names in the game playing under these Experimental Laws," the Frenchman said.
"The primary aim of the ELVs is to make the game simpler to understand for players and supporters alike, and that the players dictate the outcome of matches not referee subjectivity," Lapasset said.
Some within the northern hemisphere fear the ELVs are an attempt to increase scoring opportunities at the expense of traditional forward play.
Australia, whose domestic game is struggling because of competition from Australian rules football and rugby league, were overpowered at the scrum by England during their quarter-final defeat at last year's World Cup.
Some European critics fear the ELVs, if they become permanent, will lead to "basketball" rugby with high scores devaluing the worth of a try as the 15-man code is robbed of many of its distinctive features.
But Lapasset insisted on Monday that the basic fabric of the game would remain the same.