Those that read my scribbling about the game of rugby will be aware of my ongoing concerns that our game has become increasingly boring as the legislators and referees have sought to sanitize the game, and also effectively neutralize any area of the game they deem dangerous. Some of the recent law changes and law trials that have commenced certainly address some of those concerns, but sometimes do not seem to go far enough.
I particularly like the fact that the constant harassment bordering on an off-side infringement by opposing scrumhalves at the base of the scrum has been eradicated. This is a truly positive move that encourages a return to some of those 8/9 combination moves, especially with number 8’s being given that extra second to pick up and launch attacks off the base of the scrum.
I am looking forward to the implementation of the new ruck law that will allow players to contest the ball from all angles, as long as they are behind the off-side line through the ball, the referees’ inconsistent interpretations of “side entry” is forthwith removed from the game. This change also sees a welcome change to the off-side line for players not involved in the ruck; they will need to be one meter back from the last feet, giving more room and time to launch attacks from the ruck and stopping the infuriating loitering beyond the ball; it also stops the deliberate act of taking defenders out on the fringes and gets rid of the clutter of players around the ruck that are currently a form of legalized obstruction.
The maul remains a bone of contention. The change that sees the ball having to be physically moved backwards rather than the player backing with the ball in hand is a very small improvement, it prevents the maul being stacked from the side, already a misapplication of the “side entry” issue, completely sealing off the ball carrier from defenders. However, the real issue has not been addressed. The maul remains a muddle of legalized obstruction with the defenders having very little chance of getting to the ball or ball carrier.
After some resistance to the new bonus point system I have come to the conclusion that it is a good thing. Much like Baked Camembert or Moules Marinières or perhaps Soupe à L’oignon this is something the French have got spot on. Score three more tries than your opponent and you have the bonus point. This encourages teams to outscore their opponents with tries, rather than relying on kicks to edge a close game. It also encourages the defending team to fight back and attempt to deny their opponents that vital bonus point. Sitting back and defending a lead once a bonus point is in the bank is no longer an option! Viva l’attaque!!
Speaking of boring rugby, I have to briefly shift our focus to the Six Nations competition up north. After all the talk about “learning” from the southern hemisphere countries and adopting the “southern style” of play, the 2016 Six Nations is a dreary repetition of the same old boring northern rugby of years past.
Yes, it is competitive. But only because the standards are consistently low across all the participating nations. 3rd league rugby is also competitive, with concomitantly lower standards.
European Rugby has gone backwards since the 2015 World Cup. Think on this – the Super Rugby opening weekend produced an average of 6 tries per match. The Six Nations managed just 3.
There is a singular lack of ball skills and running skills in European rugby. There is a lack of vision. Players do not see, much less seize opportunities; support runners are simply ignored; passes are fumbled or drift wide of the intended receiver; and then it all deteriorates into a grinding mess.
To quote a friend of mine: “I am not enjoying!!”