Blame the Rules of the Game, Not Antipodean Rugby

It is quite evident that if the Wallabies and the All Blacks are not in the semi-finals of the Rugby World Cup that there is something inherently wrong with the rules of the sport.

If the followers of the great old game wanted to watch a mass of fat heaving sweaty bodies for hours on end they'd go to Finland and sit in a sauna.

It is time for a change in the rules of Rugby Union in order to prevent the game being dominated by ponderous pale British Isle types whose idea of a good time is to bury the ball in the forwards and score points off the boot from converted (ie brainwashed) ex-pat Aussies and private school type Englishmen.

Rules need changing to ensure that the ball remains in hand or is passed from player to player. The game must encourage try scoring and reward the team that maintains possession and ball movement.

In addition, the up-and under kick so favoured by Argentinians in this World Cup is a plague on the game that is spreading with alarming speed to other teams. It is no joke that this kick was originally known as the garryowen, named after the town in Limerick in the Republic of Ireland. The infamous tactic was first devised as a way of allowing inferior teams with limited firepower and imagination to compete on an unequal footing with their faster more skillful opponents.

Australian Rules football split from Rugby a century and a half ago and incorporated Gaellic Football kicking and scoring systems to cater for cricketers in the off season. It is obvious simply by looking at Aussie Rules players that the long punt and the up-and-under were never intended for the skillfully coordinated yet muscular and fleet-of-foot Rugby player. This type of kicking has its place - but not in Rugby.

Pacific Islander teams have played the game in the spirit that William Webb Ellis intended and have provided the most exhilarating highlights of the Rugby World Cup to date. Even the Irish and Welsh have provided (admittedly limited) enjoyment by throwing the ball around to great effect - though not until 25 points down or when four tries are needed. Even France realised that to resort to traditional Gallic flair was the way to win Rugby matches and Rugby hearts and minds.

Australian and New Zealand players meanwhile were lulled by their Northern Hemisphere rivals into playing Northern Hemisphere Rugby. With attacking options across the park, both teams took the conservative approach and deservedly lost as a result.

For the good of the game, and in order for these teams to take up their rightful place at the top of the Rugby food chain the rules of the game must be altered to ensure their success and to take advantage of the aesthetically gifted playing style which comes naturally to their players.

It has often been said that reducing the number of players on the field will open up space and present players with more attacking options. But rather than reducing the number of forwards on the field as in Rugby League the number of backs could be reduced. In any case, just reduce the number of players allowed and let the coaches decide where they make the cuts.

When a scrum is packed down the team with the feed will have the option of a 5, 6 or 8 man scrum - similar to a line out. This would create a whole new dimension in tactics - teams that are good at scrummaging would insist on an 8 man scrum while bad scrummaging teams such as Australia would not be unfairly penalised for this and could nominate a 6 man scrum. This would assist getting the ball in and out of the scrum as quickly as possible and ensure free flowing Rugby.

When the Rolling Maul was a lad, players could only be replaced if they were injured. Now coaches can run on a new player on every time some overweight unfit forward gets tired. Bring back the original rule and not only will forwards get fitter and faster but coaches will favour younger faster players whi like to run around a lot looking for gaps.

The Mark in Rugby is designed to discourage the up-and-under and protect the catcher of the ball. Clearly it isn't working. Awarding one point to the team whose player successfully marks a high ball should pretty much eliminate it.

These are just a few suggestions for the IRB to consider. Clearly all ideas no matter how radical need to be considered if Rugby is to recover from its current parlous state where both the All Blacks and Wallabies have been prevented for progressing further at the Rugby World Cup.


Still Last said…
Well put Comrade

It's time to start a ground swell to get the game changed, any game where the English can compete and win against the Australians clearly needs the rules altered. Rugby League altered their rules in the mid 80s when the 85 and 86 grand finals were determined solely on goal kicks.

I like the option of teams nominating the number of forwards vs backs depending on the situation. Imagine a soaking wet mud pit field - you wouldn't have any backs. Forwards could roam the field unimpeded. Big blokes could do what they do best and that's just crash into each other without some winger kicking it aimlessly down the other end of the field as soon as he gets his hands on the ball.

As long as they keep the scrum and the lineout as genuine contests for the ball. If the scrum and lineout aren't genuine contests then the game starts to resemble League - where the scrum is simply a social gathering, a chance for the forwards to get together and chat about the days activities. Any rule changes need to keep forwards and as always has to be a place for big blokes with no necks to run freely, and this needs to be the rugby paddock rather than say the aisles of woolworths.