How can we make rugby more entertaining? - Green and Gold Rugby

How can we make rugby more entertaining?

How can we make rugby more entertaining?

England coach Eddie Jones has encouraged rugby union to make at least two fundamental changes to the rules in order to speed up play.

Jones highlighted the dramatic impact the NRL’s new “six-again” rule had on the quality and speed of the games.

“It’s definitely become less of a wrestle in the NRL and a faster, more continuous game,” Jones told Sky Sport in New Zealand.

“I think we need to make that adjustment in rugby. Now we’ve got this game that’s almost like NFL.”

So what changes should be made?

Firstly, as Eddie suggested, the reserve bench should be reduced from eight to six players, with three of those players being front-rowers. This will ensure fatigue becomes a major factor in all games.

Three front-rowers should be kept on the bench to ensure good scrum technique is maintained as the game progresses, thus, preventing an increase in scrum collapses towards the end of the game.

Secondly, a player should be allowed to tap and go within three metres of where the penalty is awarded. Far too often a player is called back for showing the incentive to speed the game up because he isn’t standing directly where the ref wants him to be.

This rule change will significantly benefit quick, smart halfbacks like Perenara and McDermott who are always looking to catch out tired forwards.

Scrums are one of the biggest issues when it comes to reducing fatigue in the game. It has been suggested that the clock should be stopped while scrums are being set but this would make rugby game last two hours at least.

Another way around the scrum issue would be to award the team in possession with a tap and go when a scrum collapses for the second time. Referees would have to be all over the side in possession deliberately collapsing the scrum, but I believe this gives the forwards a fair crack at a decent scrum, without taking up a huge portion of the game.

Moreover, a five-minute sin bin for repeated breakdown offences (two in quick succession). This will force sides to clean up their work at the breakdown, and in turn, create a faster, more entertaining spectacle. The ten-minute sin bin will remain.

Finally, and this one will be hard to get past the Northern Hemisphere nations, reduce the penalty goal from three points to two. As a result, sides will look to go for the try rather than kick at goal, thus, keeping the ball in play for longer.

As League showed over the weekend, all it takes is one or two rule changes to create a significantly better spectacle for fans. Hopefully, rugby follows suit when it returns in July.

  • Ed

    I don’t think the current world champions would want a penalty goal to go to two points. This idea is an Australian one and we should give up on it as it won’t happen.

    Thanks for the article Hamish. A tough business you are trying to get into, with fewer jobs that pay the bills. Best of luck.

  • While I agree that we need to be a little less pedantic about where a penalty is taken I don’t think three metres further forward of where the incident would really work.

  • The “within 3 metres” tap and go looks appealing on paper, but… three metres and behind the ref will stretch to 5 or more. 3 metres forward of a penalty on your 22, who cares, but 3 metres forward of a penalty on their 5 metre line is enormous. And suddenly you’re reducing a clear cut law to a strongly constrained set of conditions for really obvious reasons. It has to be where the ref can see it, it either can’t be ahead of the mark or closer than 5m to their try line.

    I wouldn’t mind a bit of laissez-faire there, but there need to be some limits still.

    The scrum collapse, tap-and-go, again sounds appealing. But referees already have a bit of a lottery at scrum collapse time. Some appear to just guess, some make decisions that seem ok based on what they see, but viewed from the reverse side are clearly wrong. I’m not actually blaming the referee – there are a lot of moving parts, they’re in a particular position, judging it live, and I’m sure they all make their best call based on what they see from where they are. Changing it to this… why is it two rather than three or one? What happens on rainy day when there’s a lot of mud and the front rows keep slipping? That happens even at international level, certainly at levels below that. The referee in those circumstances normally has the discretion to say “it’s the mud, lets move to somewhere a bit drier” but under this proposal it’s bam, penalty…

    I don’t mind tinkering with the size of the replacements bench. I wonder if it will get by the safety supremos though. Tired players tend to make more mistakes and that’s going to include worse tackle technique after all.

    I don’t think we’ll see 2 points for a penalty, but we might see a move to 6 points for a try, or even 8 for a try and no conversion. It doesn’t have quite the same impact, you’re still racking up the points so 3 penalties is better than a converted try, whereas at 2 and 7 you obviously need 4 penalties, but it does shift things in favour of a try just a little. That said, it’s hard to see how it would have changed the outcome of the last RWC – the points totals would have been different but the outcomes would have been the same if they’d played the same way. Of course they probably wouldn’t have played the same way, because coaches would evolve different tactics for the rules.

    Personally, I’d like to see a different change, to de-emphasise the role of the kicker – it’s the only solo, totally non-competitive action in rugby. Penalty against you inside your 22, they have the option of 1 (or maybe 2) points, and you restart from your 22, or they can take the other options below. Elsewhere they can tap and go, kick to touch (and throw in to the lineout) or opt for a scrum. It still makes a penalty inside your 22 a non-competitive points risk, but at least we don’t waste a minute on it each time. If we want player fatigue to be an issue, we don’t give everyone a 60 second breather. Possibly 8-10 times per match. It makes decisions about big lineout jumpers or faster breakdown players more intense. Obviously you want players who are great at both, but realistically there aren’t a lot of them in the world. Do you pick the guy who is 2.10 m tall, and wins in the air, but useless on the ground, or the guy who is 2.00 m tall, and not so hot in the air, but great at the breakdown? With a chunk more lineouts in a game, that’s suddenly a real issue.

  • Who?

    I remember losing a very tight Suncorp test (against the ABs) when the ref allowed a scrumhalf to take a quick tap 5m sideways from where the penalty had been awarded. If the ball had gone to the mark, the extra time taken would’ve been just enough to allow our defence to make the tackle. I’m not in favour of allowing sloppiness.
    Reducing the bench? There’s a real argument for that. But maybe a better solution would be lowering the number of interchanges such that you can’t just use all the players. We could retain 8 players, but have only 5 allowed to be used. That way, you’re not as heavily punished for losing two similar players to injury (3 fronties, 3 spare spots, you’d assume one would be a 4/6, maybe a scrumhalf, maybe an outside back? What happens then if you lose a lock AND a flanker?).
    Change for the sake of change never works well. We’ve already seen too much tinkering with the laws of the game this century. Almost nothing done this century has seen an improvement in the game. Perhaps, if the issue’s enforcement at the breakdown, we should see referees asked to police entry. Not just direction of entry, but players charging the ruck, entering with their shoulders below their hips, players deliberately collapsing rucks (all of which are illegal). This would improve safety and improve the clarity of what’s happening at the breakdown. If all you see is players from both sides diving in off their feet, there’s no hope of avoiding neck injuries, head injuries, or seeing what’s actually happening. As an international ref said to me, “Rugby’s a game played on your feet. Well, maybe not at the elite level, but…..”


Aspiring sports journalist with a passion for all things rugby. Currently studying journalism at the University of Wollongong.

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