The simple rule change to attract eyeballs to rugby - Green and Gold Rugby

The simple rule change to attract eyeballs to rugby

The simple rule change to attract eyeballs to rugby

Longtime rugby agitator Roy Masters may love putting the boot into the game they play from heaven – but sadly, he’s often right.

Speaking about the Wallabies try-less test match against Argentina over the weekend, Masters implied a free to air audience wouldn’t tolerate the constant stoppages in Rugby, and changes to the laws would be needed, similar to the NRL’s “six-again” laws implemented this year.

The problem, Masters says, is that around 40 stuffy old men at World Rugby headquarters Dublin, Ireland, have the power to change Rugby’s laws, and are often the least willing to do so.

While a roadblock, there’s no doubt a couple of simple measures, acceptable to almost every stakeholder, could make Rugby far more attractive to watch – which is crucial as the game prepares to launch itself on Channel 9.

The greatest strength of the “six again” rule in Rugby League is its simplicity. It’s not a radical overhaul. The rule simply restarts the tackle count if a penalty is given away, rather than halting proceedings for a penalty.

The result is that teams who commit wrestling style slow downs of play the balls or are offside when a team is red hot on attack pay the ultimate price – six more tackles of defending. The incentive: play by the rules, or else.

This procedural change has sped up Rugby League so much it’s threatening to change the structural meta-game. Players are running more, the ball is in play more, and they’re getting tired. Anecdotally, it has seen a reduction in big hits. Ultimately, it could even see players forced to become a bit smaller to cope.

Rugby should take heed and implement some simple rule changes of its own – 15 second shot clocks for scrums, 60 seconds for penalty goals, and some reductions to the substitutions bench.

In the old days, in fact, as recently as around 2003, players took almost no time to set for scrums. Then, some Northern Hemisphere teams realised the tactical advantage of slowing down the scrum. It allows big, physical teams to slow down, have a breather, and make life hell for smaller teams who want to move the ball around.

Combine this with the farce of drinks breaks and test match Rugby has an embarrassingly low ball in play time compared to Rugby League.

Huge props can dominate the physical contest at scrums and rucks. The massive collisions have made fast, jinking players of the David Campese mold extinct – they were simply smashed into touch, and out of the starting lineups of teams the world over.

Michael Hooper  is tackled


The result is interesting enough if you love rugby. It’s a grand game of brutal chess. To the uninitiated – it’s dross. The big collisions make people drop the ball far more, leading to more minute long stoppages waiting for a scrum to set (and potentially reset). This rewards intense physicality at the expense of guile and skill.

A 15 second scrum clock would get the game moving. It also allows the viewer not to be taunted by minute long stoppages from basic errors. With the ball back in play, and the forwards running around, players start getting tired and missing tackles, opening things up.

The public is more than willing to forgive a complex rule book, provided decisions are made and play resumes. What they won’t forgive is constant stoppages which take forever to restart.

Another area which could be reformed in both Rugby Union and Rugby League is the incredibly liberal substitutions bench. Having eight replacements allows both props to be subbed off – in effect granting a get out of jail free card for having large props who are unfit. Rugby League likewise has the interchange which has a similar effect.

Instead of running into open space at the end of thrilling games, speedy backs find themselves running into fresh 120 kilogram props, who’ve just come onto the field.

The 8 player bench should remain – but teams should only be able to use three of these players, with the rest able to come on if there’s an injury. This will see games break open with thrilling late stage line-breaks, adding to the drama.

These changes should also be considered for another reason – safety. Having huge props smash people all game isn’t just frustrating – it’s dangerous. Players are getting concussed from these collisions at frightening rates. When the next generation of players gets older, it’s terrifying to think what will happen to many.

Speeding up the game and making players fitter will make them need to be smaller. This will moderate the collision, while keeping its core elements. It will make the game prettier, and safer. Rugby AU should consider adopting these simple procedural law changes.

  • Better rule change would be to drop the value of penalties to 2 points and field goals to 1 point.

    For mine the srum has improved these days in that if the scrum goes down and the ball is out, most, if not all referees and letting the game go on.

    • paul

      The opposite to 2 point penalties is you simply encourage the defending team to commit multiple offences knowing punishment is more limited.

      • Wallabrumby

        I am not sure @disqus_KtWdztfDt5:disqus , you are giving away territory if giving away penalties and territory is gold dust these days. Multiple penalties in the 20m zone would equal a man in the bin, so if correctly policed it should negate the defendings teams willingness to commit offences. .

        • Who?

          That didn’t work well for us on the weekend, did it..?

        • itsgoodtobelucky

          Plus it should encourage attacking tactics avoiding/reducing the times that teams take the ball into contact, and limit the chances for
          defences to concede penalties in the first place.
          20 phases of 9-man rugby close to the tryline might be edge-of-your-seat stuff, but its not attractive is it?

      • Hutch

        My long held view is all penalties should be taken via drop goal. It would be quicker, would make penalty attempts a bit harder, and would bring penalties in line with the spirit of Rugby. Right now penalties are the only aspect of Rugby that allow you to bring an extra tool onto the field.

        • moaning expat

          the other thing is the value of penalties is ridiculous for various ‘offenses’ thanks god theyve changed scrum penalties to short arms. Collapsing a scrum accidentally is the same as something deliberate. and cynical penalties should be even more. perhaps various points for the different crimes much like life. IE teams that get penalised on their 5 metre line deliberately slowing the ball etc- multiple times should be penalised more than some bloke slipping on a scrum or even the scrum getting rolled over. Why is it a penalty to have your scrum swept away? The idea of a scrum is to get the ball and not to overturn the other team or drive the scum all the way to the other side. Once the ball is out- use it. I dont want to see another fucking maul- theres enough already.

        • Who?

          You’re not correct. Many scrum infractions are still PK’s – the FK experiment of the ELV’s didn’t work.
          Collapsing CAN be cynical. And it depends on the ref (i.e. the Wallabies were twice PK’d for collapsing on the weekend (Sio), Los Pumas were monstered backwards and smashed without penalty).

          And why’s it a penalty for failing to scrum legally..? Because if it weren’t, you’d have three more flankers there. Which would radically change the game.
          We do already tend to ‘use’ the ball if the ball’s at the back, a team has the feed and has collapsed…

      • Everest the red

        I’d like to see a scale for how much penalty kicks are worth. over 40 out one point, between the 40 and 22 two points and inside the 22 three points.
        For mine this stops the ridiculousness of knocking over a kick from half way for over half the worth of a try when your team really hasn’t earn’t it. Where as if you have gotten in to the 22 you sort of have.

    • Huw Tindall

      Was tried and people infringed like mad as a penalty wasn’t enough of a punishment. Even more cynical and 50/50 ruck penalties etc. The sanction for a penalty needs to be significant to discourage them which will ultimately result in more ball in play time and fewer stopages.

  • Pfitzy

    1) RugbaLeg has about 650 stoppages every single game, called “tackles”. That isn’t counting scrums. Not that anyone should count scrums in league. Or whatever it is they do for sideline restarts (why do they bother tapping it against their foot?)

    2) The level of danger in a RugbaLeg scrum is practically zero unless someone breaks a nail dropping the ball into the second row’s feet. And they still take about 30 seconds to “set” one of these “scrums” because gamesmanship.

    3) “The 8 player bench should remain – but teams should only be able to use three of these players, with the rest able to come on if there’s an injury. This will see games remain largely the same, with a spate of late-game injuries happening miraculously between the 55th and 80th minutes in every single contest.”

    Fixed. Remember when the blood rule came in and a few unscrupulous French clubs sent their medics out with razor blades to get a tired player off with a blood injury?

    4) Maybe we could just teach our wingers to be shit on defense to create space – like pretty much every NRL team in the comp. That would create more tries. Or every 5 tackles put up a kick? Because union has too many kicks while league only averages around 90 kicks per game (around 1 per tackle set).

    I’m not saying Masters doesn’t have some good points about speeding the game up, but this raving nonsense comes up every couple of years when he’s got plenty to talk about in his own game.

    • Mike D

      No set of rule changes will ever be perfect, people will always find a way to game the system. Maybe if a player has to come off injured, for the sake of long term safety and well being, they must miss the next match of a comparable level. People might game it at the Grand Final, but you’ll want to be very sure that player is injured in a pool match. On the other hand that might cause players to remain on the field when they should come off. But I do like the idea of making players do the full 80, not a 50/30 split load. Cardio fitness in your forwards goes up and the Michael Hoopers of the game become more competitive because he’s not trying to shift someone who has 40 kegs on him.

    • Alister Smith

      I think you make some really good points, particularly about the stoppage every tackle. I am sure they don’t count that in the “ball in play” figures when they do the comparison but it should be and, particularly late in the game or when a teams wrestle technique is pretty good, it can take the ball out of play for a significant amount of time.

      I am a rusted on fan but I am not watching the game thinking there needs to be a host of changes. I think the viewing numbers, even from Australia, were pretty good for the World Cup and I personally think the biggest thing that has lead to a drop off in crowds and TV following in Australia is not necessarily the way we play but the fact that we have been losing.

      Sometimes I think we might reset scrums too often but, as you rightly identify, we have two tonnes of human bodies colliding with each other and some significant force. I enjoy that contest but I agree it needs to be safe.

    • Seb V

      League is a faster paced game. The “tackle” stoppages last about 5 second then they are running again. I guess not so much about the amount of stoppages but also the duration. Rugby can be improved with some of these ideas. Although I’m not too fussed about reducing the substitutions, I love the idea of policing and speeding up penalties and set-pieces.

      • Pfitzy

        We already have a way of speeding up the game: refs enforcing “use it” at rucks and mauls. They don’t – I think rugby would be better if the refs jacked up their game awareness and made a KPI out of ball-in-play.
        15-second scrum “shot clock” is unsae IMHO but we could enforce 30 seconds.

  • Jason

    First up the six again rule is 10/10 dumb. 6 again on the first tackle is meaningless while six again on the 6th tackle is gold. But the idea of a simple fast penalty is a good one, honestly, I think you could easily take the penalty goal away entirely. Another option is to drop it’s value to only 2 points to discourage teams from kicking. Alternatively, it could easily be made that all goal attempts must be drop goals so that teams are discouraged from being too fixated on penalty goals.

    Scrum shotclock is a dead simple one that pretty much everyone has been begging for but World Rugby is an overly conservative body. But all it would take is say a competition like Super Rugby bring it in and for them to see the positive results of it.

  • formerflanker

    Go the full monty and ban all tactical substitutions. 5 player bench, no replacements except for injuries, and trust the coaches and players to adhere to the ethos of rugby.
    A man can dream.

    • While I don’t object to this in principle, I’d like to see a small number of them in each match still, or an allowance for them at least, because I think it forms a good mechanism for getting young players experience.

      This wouldn’t necessarily require a massive overhaul of the laws, you just say “you can only have substitutions for injury, or (for example) two substitutions for young players with less than (for example) 25 caps.”

      I would leave it at 8 subs, with the requirement for a full front row and 5 others, so there are still a good selection to cover all the positions, but we lose the idea of “finishers” they’re all injury subs or two young players.

      • Who?

        That’s basically Nigel Owen’s preferred model, too. Except for the ‘young players’ bit. I think it’s sensible.

        I’m not stressed about the ‘inexperienced players’ concept – I’ve no issue if you had some old bloke come on at the end to add composure, provided there were still tactical substitutions available. But if you’ve used a couple of subs, then burned injuries… Too bad.

        • I wouldn’t mind it being a limited number of tactical substitutions either, but I think the “blooding young players” line is a clearer counter-argument for the “injury subs only” alternative.

        • itsgoodtobelucky

          What about substitutes at half-time only, otherwise injury replacements only?

          Often subs are used to excuse players’ lack of fitness, and lately the ‘Bomb squad’ tactic to renew scrummaging power. Its effective and legal, but not in the spirit i don’t believe.

          At half-time if the coach wants to change gameplan or rest players, then subs can come on for that. Otherwise the run-on XV should be the finishing XV, barring injuries.

        • Honestly, if we’re going to have tactical substitutions, I think we should just have them.

          It would be interesting to see this trialled though and see what difference it makes.

        • itsgoodtobelucky

          Starting a new 40mins with subs already on should improve continuity that is often lost around 60 mins mark when most subs come on.
          Would also remove the ridiculous subbing in last 2-3 minutes of a game, like Eng-Ire last Sat when new hooker came on at 79.30, watched a line-out that was won against the throw, watched 2 more rucks, before the ball was kicked out over his head to end the game….. thanks for coming award right there!!

        • I don’t mind a sub with 2 minutes to go to be honest. They don’t usually achieve anything after all, as you pointed out.

          My issue with fixing subs at 40 minutes, except injury replacements, is that you encourage the front row to be 40 minute players. Then, when there is an injury after 10 minutes, you have a player who literally can’t manage 70 minutes expected to go out and perform. If you expect, at least at senior level, the front row to rotate, in general, so one week they do ~60 minutes, the next ~20 minutes, then asking them to step up and do 70 off the bench will probably be a struggle, but not impossible. Going from 40 to 70 in top flight rugby though… that’s going to be a real challenge.

          In club rugby, it’s probably rather different. The last club game I watched (tier 4 of English rugby) they just run out their XV and they played through.

        • itsgoodtobelucky

          Thats a fair point, though front rows are already only expected to last little more than 40 mins as it is, being subbed around 50 maybe 60 mins, and that extra 15-20 is after 15mins break in any case.
          And an injury afte 10mins means the sub would have to do 70 instead of the 20 or so he anticipated sitting on the bench anyway.

          Is there much difference in expectation of their fitness?

  • Nutta

    The answer lies in Law 6.5.A and actually applying Law 19.4. Now 30sec is a long time. But players don’t wear watches so if a Ref stands there and says “Righto lads, 3-2-1…” then blows the short-arm penalty against the team not ready it will sort itself out quick-smart. If they do it again then long-arm them. If they do it again then sin-bin their 9. Problem fixed.

    • KwAussie Rugby Lover

      works every time

    • Keith Butler

      Talking of 9s, I like to see enforcement of the refs ‘use it’ call as I’ve yet to see one in any game. The time they take is ridiculous.

      • It got applied in a match I watch a few weeks ago.

        It’s worth remembering the “use it” call is actually a five second warning, not use it instantly. Telling the 9 that the ref considers the ball to be available, so they have 5 seconds to play the ball.

        However, I agree, that’s a real flexi 5 seconds, often far more like 10. While it would be unpopular, I’d like to see the TMO put a countdown over the big screen and tell the ref “that’s time” and have the ball turned over…. that will change things rapidly.

        • Patrick

          That was my suggestion too: 30 second countdowns on the scoreboard for lineouts (from the moment the touchie’s hand goes out), scrums (from the moment the ref calls scrum to one team or the other) and penalties (from the ref’s call).

          If not used a free kick to the other team (also with 30 seconds!).

        • Nutta

          What we need to avoid though is anything that makes the international any different from the park game in terms of the laws themselves. One of the best bits of our game is that it’s the same game played by the same laws regardless of level. That said, the egalitarian nature of the game itself compared to the definitely in-egalitarian positioning of the game (eg in Private schools) has always puzzled me a bit.

        • Patrick

          I share the sentiment but let’s face it that ship has sailed (my son’s club certainly does not have live video replays!).

          However I would implement similar rules at club and senior school level but probably with more time.

        • Patrick

          That was my suggestion too: 30 second countdowns on the scoreboard for lineouts (from the moment the touchie’s hand goes out), scrums (from the moment the ref calls scrum to one team or the other) and penalties (from the ref’s call).

          If not used a free kick to the other team (also with 30 seconds!).

  • formerflanker

    Re constant stoppages – the increasing trend of having a board meeting with multiple agenda items before lineouts and penalty decisions needs to be stopped.
    Refs could do so with one warning and then follow up action.

    • KwAussie Rugby Lover


    • Tim

      100% it comes down to the ref just speed the game up

  • KwAussie Rugby Lover

    Thanks for this. I was initially going to dismiss it but I actually get where you’re coming from. I think that 15 secs is too short though. Even at club rugby there are some big boys and we need to let them get set as unlike league the scrum isn’t just a reset it’s actually a contest. This is the difference between the two codes. In league the contest is only in the tackle, and even then only in the contact, then everything stops and you restart. In rugby everything is a “fair contest” – fair meaning the rules allow for a fair contest, not the players. Because the scrum is a contest there is a lot of power and the sides need to be set so that there aren’t any injuries. If things aren’t set there is a real probability of serious injury, I remember a number of broken necks when I was a kid that forced the rule changes, and we don’t want that again. In saying that I think you are correct with the number of stoppages and the way they are managed. I think there should be a time limit for a setup on all the set plays, lineout, penalty, free kick and scrum. I also think the water stops need to be banned and referees need to be stricter, say get off once then free kick to the opposition straight away. 2 or 3 of those and people might get the message.

    I’m not sure I agree as much on the bench, I think that a full bench is necessary because of the risk of injury and if we reduced it and say the Wallabies lost a RWC final because they had an injury with no replacement available because of the reduced bench then there would be even worse complaints. In some ways the games I’ve refereed with rolling subs have actually worked out better because players can come and go as they want and the level of play stays high. maybe that’s the answer.

    • I think if it’s to the ref calling crouch, or the line out being formed, a 30 second clock is probably reasonable. I’d be willing to take someone doing a study and saying it needs 40 or 45 seconds, because I’m going by gut feel.

      And this would be something where I think you can sensibly have a slightly different rule at different levels. Test level 30 seconds, SR 35 seconds, Shute Shield 40 seconds, knackered seniors and U12’s 1 minute kind of thing.

      • KwAussie Rugby Lover

        Yeah that might work, especially if the referee has the right to be flexible if there are issues. Not likely to occur at the higher level but very regular at the lower level.

        • Who?

          Part of the issue for the scrum is the liability on referees to ensure safe scrums. Refs need time to check lots of things (body heights, angles, binds, slingshotting 8’s, engagements). If we could get front rows to set up quicker, that’d be great, but……

        • KwAussie Rugby Lover

          Absolutely mate

        • KwAussie Rugby Lover

          Absolutely mate

    • itsgoodtobelucky

      Question i have is, WHY is the scrum a contest? Or rather why SHOULD it be a contest?

      Think of the reasons for a scrum taking place, knock-on, fwd pass, held up in the tackle, lose the ruck, etc etc … all mistakes by the team in possession. So why should they get a fair contest (esp if they’ve got a much bigger/stronger pack too) for the ball after they just screwed up?

      Compared to reasons for a lineout taking place, ball is kicked to touch, player gets tackled out, maul pushed out, etc its a CHOICE by the team in possession. Even if tackled into touch, they have consciously passed the ball to a player, or set up a maul, close to the touchline. So for the lineout that follows, in effect they CHOSE to contest the ball again after having full possession before.

      At a scrum though, the side that is awarded the put in only gets that because the team that was in possession before messed up. So rewarding them with a fair contest for the ball again makes no sense, does it?

      • KwAussie Rugby Lover

        It’s one of the tenants of the game. At all times except for penalties the rules allow for a fair contest. It’s what differentiates rugby union from most other contact games and absolutely makes sense. It’s also something that should continue

        • itsgoodtobelucky

          I accept most people see it that way, fair contest etc, but scrums are more problematic now than 20-30 years ago when they were no less a fair contest, but worked more effectively as a restart method.

          Now they’ve morphed into a way to win penalties, which are invariably kicked, losing another couple of minutes of ball-in-play time going for 3 points from 40-50m away by a team not previously in a ‘scoring position’, or for a lineout in the 22m to set up a trundling maul for a wrestled try, or another penalty!

          There is another way surely?

        • KwAussie Rugby Lover

          May e but the last thing I’d want to see would be the loss of the contest. If people want that go to league

  • JaLsWs

    Might not be a popular idea here, but if I could change one rule it would be to ditch the rolling maul. From a spectator point of view it’s dour and uninteresting. At lineout time teams could contest the ball from the throw, then it’s game on.

    The game is long overdue on introducing tighter time limits on stoppages.

    • Red Block

      I have no problem with the rolling maul in rugby. What I do have a problem with is that the attacking team can pretty much do whatever they want with impunity.
      There are laws governing what the attacking team can do but they are rarely enforced and tend to be ignored by referees.
      Have rolling mauls but start policing what the attacking team is doing.

      • Who?

        I have a greater issue with ‘latching’, which Nigel Owens is also concerned about. I don’t know why it isn’t penalized – for mine, it’s in the realm of the already-illegal ‘Cavalry Charge’ and ‘Flying Wedge’. These are used to set up mauls, like the one in the RWC final last year, where SA won a penalty for something that should’ve been penalized the other way.

    • Huw Tindall

      Easier solution would be to keep the maul but allow it to be “sacked”. It’s unique in that there is an offside line but no tackle has been made. If a maul wasn’t given special treatment in the rules it would fix it up straight away.

  • Wallabrumby

    Some good points, but it is a very different game and ultimately a WORLD game. Remember in the north they don’t necessarily care about competition as the main competition is Football (soccer) which a 1 all draw is the most common result. Rugby is electric comparing to that!
    Anyone watch a game of NFL lately? its as boring as batshit, slow and long, yet it reaps billions of dollars revenue in the US….so go figure. Australia we just have different competition / codes to compare to.
    I don’t think rules need to change too much, I like having bench players fresh coming on, if used correctly the bench can be very good tactical move. What i would like to see is clearer reffing at the ruck and scrums, particularly for the attacking team. Too many penalties against play for 50/50 calls. Put the straight arm away and award a short arm, with only allowed to call one scrum reset.

    • dane

      “If used correctly the bench can be a very good tactical move”
      Ie NOT like the wallabies at the weekend V ARG

  • Patrick

    I think that shotclocks for the scrum, taking a penalty and throwing a lineout are a no brainer. Every professional stadium has a large screen now, all you need to do is that as soon as the ref calls “scrum” or “penalty”, or the touchie puts his arm out one way or the other, a timer starts playing down in massive numbers superimposed on the screen, I would suggest starting with 30 seconds for each.

    However I strongly disagree with the idea of reducing substitutions, in particular I do not think this is true at all:

    Huge props can dominate the physical contest at scrums and rucks. The massive collisions have made fast, jinking players of the David Campese mold extinct – they were simply smashed into touch, and out of the starting lineups of teams the world over.

    Um, Damien McKenzie? Gaël Fickou and Romain Ntamack? Elton Jantjes and Cheslin Kolbe and indeed any South African winger? I don’t think any of them are bigger than Campese, although they are all fitter and stronger and better-trained.

    Finally, concussion is a serious issue, but World Rugby has done more than almost any other global sporting body to tackle this?

    Rugby is a great game and we need to make sure it evolves without losing its character. if the idea was to make it into AFL or league we would not need to spend much time on it!

    • Regarding concussions, they’re changing the high tackle protocols a little bit too. If you tackle someone and there’s a head clash, you can get carded now, at least in the Premiership.

      I missed the full discussion of it sadly, and what they said wasn’t entirely clear. But basically if you go into a tackle upright and there’s a head clash, the tackler can get carded – it happened over the weekend. It seemed that if you had bent at the waist and there was a head clash, there will be no punishment. I hope it’s rather more properly worked out than this, but as I said, I only saw a very short blurb while they were showing highlights of the weekend’s games.

  • sambo6

    I sorry, but if Aussie eyeballs want to watch a game like rugby league…then they can fuck off and watch rugby league.

    I know the Aussie game is struggling, and needs more eyeballs/bums on seats….but to be fair to those ’40 stuffy old men’ the game is booming globally (COVID aside) so why should they change the rules of a global game so that Shane from Cambletown doesn’t mind tuning in every once in a while?

    Experimental rule changes are fine from time to time, but its funny how the constant clamor for rule changes to make it ‘faster’ and with more tries always comes from Australia…..

    Im a Aussie, and I love my reds, wallabies and aussie rugby in general… all for innovation to try and improve the spectacle for people not like me who could be the casual fan……but we are who we are….. lets not lose the soul of the game to please an audience who may never love our game, no matter how many tries there are….

    As an aside…I have to disagree with the view that ‘fast, jinking player’ are extinct, far from it……Beaudan Barrett, Damian Mckenzie, Tom Wright, Johnny may, Cheslin Kolbe, Stuart Hogg…to name just a few….

    • Andrew Luscombe

      And the world’s most popular sport is soccer.

      • Who?

        Except it’s not a sport… I don’t know what it is, other than an abomination. ;-P

    • Mica

      Shane Williams was playing only a short time ago too.
      Then of course you have the scrummies – Faf, Tate, Nic and Aaron are pretty small and go alright against the big blokes.

  • Seb V

    These are great ideas. Love them. Would definitely make the game better. Stoppages frustrate the hell out of me. Players taking forever to set-up and take penalties is the most boring thing to watch even for a die hard rugby fan. And scrum re-sets are happening far too often

  • Patrick

    I think the second front row is great, and allow the scrum to be preserved as a spectacle. It is already much better since they got rid of the hit, but I think we all want the scrum to be a key part of the game and we all want to preserve the range of body types in rugby.

    I would certainly speed things up with “shotclocks” on the scoreboard but that is all.

    • Mica

      Just please don’t call them shotclocks – we’re not playing basketball!!!

  • Patrick

    I think the second front row is great, and allow the scrum to be preserved as a spectacle. It is already much better since they got rid of the hit, but I think we all want the scrum to be a key part of the game and we all want to preserve the range of body types in rugby.

    I would certainly speed things up with “shotclocks” on the scoreboard but that is all.

  • Greg

    30 seconds for a lineout, 30 seconds for a scrum has a lot of merit.

    The hand-holding 15 m from the line of touch is a time wasting embarrassment.

    • Who?

      I don’t know why Los Pumas were given SOOO much time to set their lineout on the weekend. There’s been times this year we should’ve been FK’d for getting to the lineout too slowly, but they were incredibly slow at one point….

  • Mica

    On the whole, this is really just about the fair weather supporter.
    If Australia were the best side in the world and beating the likes of NZ, England and SA more often than not you’d see spectator numbers go up and more viewers on free to air.
    When the game is played like it was on the weekend, only the rusted on supporters watch and then come back for more……..
    We can’t help it and will continually partake in Wallaby supporter self flagellation time and time again.
    Each time we lose the Bledisloe we are closer to regaining it – or some other sort of philosophical nonsense and optimism. :)

  • Who?

    Just because no one else has noted it yet… A timer for penalties – and conversions – has been in place for ages. It’s just not well enforced. I believe it’s 90 seconds…

    • Patrick

      Yes but it is already really long. 5 penalty kicks for goal and 5 penalty kicks for touch per team and you have potentially 30 minutes of time to take penalties, i.e. a material chunk of the whole game.

      • Who?

        Penalty kicks to touch don’t have the same timer, it’s penalty shots at goal. So, 5 penalties (at goal) per team, that’s 10 penalties, 900 seconds, yes, 15 minutes of time on.
        Penalties to touch, most times there’s a greater issue with forming the lineout than taking the kick, and even there, the team who received the penalty are usually looking to control the pace of the game.

        Given there’s a shot clock for penalties and referees already have discretion over time (the referee is the sole judge of time and fact on the field), there’s no need for any law changes. Only an option for referees to manage the games differently. Which is a direction that could be at any time.

        The counter argument is that any time the clock is stopped, the game’s ‘real world’ duration extends, which can make it harder to sell to TV and the like. The NFL is 60 minutes, but given the amount of ways they can stop the clock, your average NFL game comes in just under 3 hours, and overtime can add another 20 minutes to that. I would hazard a guess that those programming considerations are a notable factor when considering use of time off for setting scrums, etc.

  • Ian

    1. Scrums – Zero resets. Attacking team gets short arm and immediate possession, unless a penalty is being given to either team.
    2. Penalties – Denying a team the immediate use of the ball to take a quick tap, by throwing it away or kicking it out or whatever, is a professional foul and should be a yellow card. Watch how often Aaron Smith does this in every game! and yes Nic White’s little effort recently against AB’s did not escape me.
    3. Quick taps – need to be taken on or behind the mark. Too many are taken in front of the mark and the referee.
    4. Time wasting – As a spectator of the game I feel robbed by the amount of time actually being played in the 80 mins. If the ball is in touch or a kick is being taken then time should be stopped until the ball is back in play. Far too many minutes wasted on the clock with absolutely no football.
    5. Sideline refs – these guys need to play a bigger role in the game. One obvious example is for judging the straightness of line-out throws. Let the main ref focus on other things. But also off-side and ruck infringements. I know they do communicate at times but I would argue it is not nearly enough.
    6. Captains – seems like there are 30 of them on the field now with everyone keen to tell the ref how the game should be adjudicated. The ref needs to stop this and stick to speaking to the captain.

  • dane

    I dont get the constant scrutiny about stoppages and “needing to speed up the game”. Rugby League stops every time there is a tackle. Rugby Union is a constant battle for possession, territory and positioning the opposition’s defensive alignment.

    Stoppages allow for more significant contests for the ball at lineouts and scrums. Rushing these things leads to a Rugby League style scrum.

    Some of the most popular sports have significant amounts of time with the ball not in play. American Football, Cricket and Basebell are obvious examples. Tennis stops for at least 30 secs to a minute between EVERY point. Basketball is riddled with timeouts and stoppages for free throws every time there is a foul. In Golf a player hits the ball like once every 5 mins.

    It seems to me the people calling out Rugby for having too many stoppages are people who enjoy the one dimensional nature of Rugby League which is really becoming more and more like a tackle version of Touch Football.

    Lets celebrate the points of difference that Rugby offers: Genuine contest for the ball at every opportunity, the ability to be able to play significantly different styles, the variation in skill sets required across the park, the continuity possible when a team is able to break down the defence, and the genuine high pressure arm wrestle where every point is an absolute premium, like we saw in the Test match on the weekend.

    • Mike D

      Agree with you there. As previously noted though, this site tends to attract the purists who like exactly what you’ve said about the weekend’s game. Perhaps instead of focusing on speeding up the game, good commentators could be providing insight and analysis during stoppages about the most recent news phase of play. Then more viewers might enjoy the game.

  • Renegade88

    The interchange rule change suggested won’t work, players can simply say they are injured, or fake it, and then It’s back to a normal 8 man interchange. It’s dangerous to toy with the bench rules because tired players are more prone to injury and mistakes, and although tired players also lead to a more open game for the backs, there isn’t a real need to punish players for being fit but reducing interchange. Plenty of other rules can open up space on the field.

    If the idea is to get players tired, then speed up stoppages, and/or stop the clock for more instances with the ball not in play. Surely getting closer to 80 minutes of actual ball-in-play rugby will get players buggered enough for holes to appear.

    If you change the bench, you change the type of players you produce, you will want homogenised mr fix it players to fill those seats, which is asking for a huge change in the way the game is played.

  • Stuart Kenny

    Its a shame we are talking about a test like the one against Argentina as boring. If and (I am only saying this because it’s consistently compared) this was a league game the match would have been scoreless. Argies defended well and the wallabies starved them of the ball. So the either team was looking to win. You can’t take the fact that the wallabies respected the defence and took points as negative. It was a change in a good direction for us, being determined to win.

    And what irks me even more than the lot is the point of a league scrum and a shot clock. The uniqueness about a rugby game is the skill set and team work through multiple factors that make it so damn good. So to force big men with lots of force behind them to set a scrum in 15 seconds and ultimately injure them selves is beyond me, and this is coming from a back. Scrums promote running rugby. It gives backs the jollies of a set play and give the forwards a show of their skill. Again, reducing the substitutions… so fatiguing big men and taking away that prop physique, and making every one a carbon copy mould of each other reducing inclusiveness. And again, fatigued players are more likely to get injured, so a little counter intuitive on that point.

    Ultimately the speed of the game is dictated by a referee, their interpretation, confidence and ability to “play advantage” through out the match leads to an increase in tempo. The only suggestion from league is maybe a bunker style system developed to dictate a consistent advantage line, to deliberate on plays prior to the big questions asked or to move the game along.

    Changing the scrummaging laws and reducing subs will only have negative effects. Maybe speeding up line outs or as mentioned penalty kick time will help, but at the end of the day rugby is rugby for a reason a league is dulled down as a predictable simple to watch self licking ice cream for a reason – it isn’t a global sport, it’s only one nations national game and it doesn’t draw crowds any where near what union will (sold out twickenham any one?)


An amateur rugby referee and an even more amateur journalist

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