For five or six years, the IRB has been trying to fix faults in the game of rugby with band-aid solutions. These have over time been making problems worse.
The game’s governing body really needs to take some big steps, or rugby won’t come out of its downward spiral.
The first issue, which is the largest one at the moment, could have probably the easiest solution. That is the scrum. At the moment, we have a case where if you don’t win the initial hit, you will most likely lose the scrum.
First of all, nowhere in the law book does it mention hit. There is meant to be an engagement and no movement until the ball is fed into the scrum. I’m not sure why the IRB doesn’t pick up on this, but it is right there under their noses.
A passive engagement would potentially remove the referee from proceedings, where players are trying to guess his timing. Technique would then become the top ability required of a prop rather than pure brute strength. Heck, we may even get hookers hooking the ball and maybe some more balls won against the head.
Mauls have always been a bone of contention. I like them but I do believe they should be policed better. There should only be one use it or lose it, any player joining the maul may not join ahead of the player with the ball but rather behind him.
Any maul that isn’t going forwards for anything more than five seconds should have a scrum called against it.
Drop goals should be reduced to two points. Also, if a drop goal is missed and goes dead in-goal, there should be a scrum from where it was taken, rather than a 22 which only benefits the team that takes it as they will most likely get possession back again.
The number of substitutes – seven or eight – is too large. If you are having to change nearly half of your team in what is meant to be an 80-minute match, then something is wrong.
The game should be a marathon where players’ fitness is tested right to the end. I understand that injuries occur, so we would not want to remove all substitutes, but my guess is a lot of injuries are happening now when you have the players who last a whole game playing against seven or eight players who started on the bench.
These players are expending 80 minutes’ worth of energy in the last 20 against players who have been worn out after playing the first 60.
Games become interesting when they open up as players tire, not by staying tight the whole way through.
Anyway, these are my thoughts. I look forward to you Roarers ripping this to pieces or adding to my suggestions.