Eddie Jones was right! These rules changes are mucking up the game.
Let me digress. In Eddie’s regular diatribes against the ELVs he made the particularly interesting point that making the tackle contest too much of a contest would change the shape of rugby (my words, his thoughts).
We did see that change with prudent coaches choosing to put the ball in the air more because it turned the risk to the defenders if executed well.
The ELV’s died a death and the IRB then chooses to fiddle some more by changing the tackle interpretation, as a result the tackler is being allowed to get to his feet and contest the ball for longer.
So in that particular area the ELVs essentially continued, there was greater competition at the breakdown but with the consequence now being increased to a penalty from a free kick.
The result being even more risk at the breakdown.
So what do the coaches do? First they decide that the tackle contest is just too dangerous for the attackers unless they have dominant numbers, so they plan to kick more. They know an attacker has about half a second for the ball to be made available before they are penalised. There is no benefit in those chances so the rule evolves to kick early and back your chase and defence to add pressure.
The prime example of this is the Springboks who for the most of the season have kicked well, had an excellent chase to create pressure and a proper fetcher in Heinrich Brüssow leveraging the pressure.
What we have lost is the ball in hand rugby because the risk of turnover has become too high. So less tries, less attacking rugby, more shadow boxing looking for an opportunity through often aimless kicking.
So what do we do? To me, give the attackers more opportunity to set and recycle the ball, let the attackers have the benefit of the doubt while they keep on their feet, make the defenders release earlier in the contest, reward the team moving forward and get the balance moving back to playing rugby.