I posted recently at how underwhelmed I have been by the standard of rugby on display this year.
Austin has just written an article saying the same thing, he has some interesting (being kind) ideas about how to improve it, some are actually quite good, some are just not possible and others are fanciful.
I would love to see a time limit on scrums (I’d also scrap scrum penalties) and the 5 second rule to play the ball applied.
Overall I would like to see teams attempt to play more rugby, for me ring fencing is the solution here. I know many don’t agree, that’s fine, I just think the pressure not to lose is the biggest driver behind the negative tactics.
Here is Austin’s article:
After watching Japan play this daring, innovative brand of rugby, I really hoped that the World Cup would have acted as a springboard into a glorious domestic season.
Yet instead of seeing the light, the majority of Premiership teams – with Northampton Saints an honourable exception – embraced the dark side of South Africa’s relentless desire to kick the leather off the ball. The conclusion seems to be that you are better off playing rugby without the ball.
But if every team is trying to play without the ball then no rugby is played at all. If I am the boss of CVC (shouldn’t be long) who pumped £200 million into the Premiership 12 months ago, I would want to see change.
One of the ways they can maximise their return on investment is through the quality of the spectacle. That is the only way you will get bums on seats and television viewers switching over from Coronation Street. Instead the rugby this season has been massively underwhelming.
Some of that is because the season has started later so we have had worse weather. There have also been fewer England internationals playing. But more importantly it comes down to the tempo and intent of teams.
Let’s take last week’s Saracens vs Bath game. After 1min 43sec only three things had happened: the kick off, a knock-on and a scrum. After ten minutes, there had been just 20 phases when there should have been 100.
English club rugby simply cannot afford to regress at a time when it desperately needs to increase investment so here would be my 10-point plan to rescue the game. Some of these require new laws, some require enforcement of existing; most simply need a change in mindset.
- Scrums have to be formed within a certain time period. If you can’t get a scrum formed within, say, 20 seconds then award a free kick. A lot of clubs will say that depowers our excellent scrummaging. Well tough. There’s more to rugby than just scrummaging. You hear the front-rowers over the referee mic saying ‘let’s go, let’s go’ but then going nowhere. If you are not binding within ten seconds then it is a free kick to the opposition to tap and go. That’s the only way they will learn. If they do not get their act together then they are not allowed to scrum.
- Ban box-kicking outside the 22. Box kicking is a necessary evil, but it is only slightly less boring than collapsed scrums and marginally more interesting than Haskell on I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! It slows the game down and kills ambition. Inside your 22, box kick to your heart’s content. Outside, not allowed.
- Implement the law that states when ball is available you have five seconds to play it. If you don’t play it within five seconds then it is a free kick to the other side. The amount of time you see a ball available in the middle of the ruck but the scrum half drawing up a cosy armchair and lighting a cigar is infuriating.
- Introduce a mid-season break. I am increasingly coming to the opinion that rugby should be a summer sport. During the winter months, not only do the conditions make the standard of rugby grim but it can’t be pleasant for a kid watching their first game when its -3C at the Rec Stadium on a Friday night. So take the first four weeks of January off. Give players and spectators a proper break.
- And on that subject, we need to reduce the amount of matches played. The next season starts in the second week of September 2020 and finishes with the Lions third Test on 7 August, 2021 meaning an England player could theoretically play 12 months in a row. That is utter insanity.
- Give the media more access. If you want to sell your sport in a crowded marketplace then the media are your best allies. So instead of putting up the shutters, let BT Sport follow Ben Youngs for a week in his life. Viewers want to know what the G Force of a Sam Underhill tackle or the speed of a Jonny May break is in real time.
- Embrace the risk takers. It seems those payers are willing to gamble like Freddie Burns at Bath are being benched in favour of Steady Eddies. Everyone is playing too conservatively.
- Promote those who don’t fit in. Rugby is producing too few personalities like Ellis Genge and Danny Cipriani. They should be celebrated rather than hidden away.
- Automatic yellow card for wingers who sprint across the pitch to pat the forwards on the back for winning a scrum penalty. They are just doing their job. You job is to stay on the touchline and be ready for a crossfield kick.
- Introduce an automated sin binning system so if no tries are scored after ten minutes then both sides are reduced to 14 men. If no tries are scored after 20 minutes, they go down to 13.