Monday, 30 November 2009

All in the mind

There's plenty of tearing of hair and gnashing of teeth going on, it seems, about the state of the game of rugby today.

It seems that far too much kicking, not enough tries, no entertainment and no excitement are just a few of the game's current ills, together with an "unsustainable" casualty rate.

Much attention has been focussed on the breakdown, with the latest refereeing 'interpretation' - which allows the tackler to play the ball with his hands from whatever position as long as he is back on his feet - favouring, it is claimed, defence at the expense of attack.

This, according to the perceived wisdom, causes more ball to be kicked, as teams are fearful of being caught in possession and either turning ball over or conceding kickable penalties.

I do have some sympathy with this viewpoint, but it strikes me that the solution that many in the game are calling for, namely yet more interferenece in the laws, should really be a last resort.

No, as far as I can see the responsibility for change must lie with the players and the coaches. Call me naive, but I would have thought that, by spending more time as a team on attacking space rather than seeking contact, on offloading to supporting players rather than dying in possession and on making the ball available in the tackle rather than holding on, the chances of conceding possession or a penalty would be vastly reduced. The consequence should be that teams confident in their contact skills would be more inclined to attack. Furthermore, by coaching players not to seek contact as a first resort the number of breakdowns will be reduced and, by logical extension, so will the number of injuries.

It's a simplistic view, granted, but if teams put less emphasis on time spent in the gym and on defensive drills and more emphasis on time spent on attacking and contact skills, not only would it produce more imaginative and exciting rugby, it also has to be more effective than the aimless hoof downfield which hands the ball back to the opposition.

Fanciful? It doesn't have to be. You only have to look at the Lions in South Africa this summer and both New Zealand and Australia this past weekend for evidence that a more enlightened approach can work.

1 comment:

rugbysid said...

Couldn't agree more!
One slight quibble...
I would change
"more emphasis on time spent on attacking and contact skills"
"more emphasis on time spent on attacking and avoiding contact skills".
Long live the sidestep!