If the IRB gave you a magic wand to change one rule to improve the game, what would it be?
I agree with other scribes that the current scrum laws have utterly emaciated the contest, negating the advantage inherent in the feed. Penalties are a lottery and too harsh.
Alas, it will need multiple changes, so one rule won’t do it.
I loathe defensive intercepts within the 22. They destroy initiative and can turn a game around. The reward is too great for what is essentially a defensive lapse.
Perhaps a scrum at the point of intercept for the defensive team? But, that doesn’t happen often enough to warrant attention, so it might not work.
Moving it to 10 metres behind the last defenders’ feet would give space to cross the advantage line in scrums, mauls, rucks and line outs.
What about applying some of the NRC’s experimental laws: points for drops, penalties, conversions and time limits on scrums.
There is one aspect of the game that consistently gives defending teams an unfair advantage and it happens multiple times in every game. Defensive kicks from within the 22 have defending speedsters advancing to the point beyond where the line out should be taken.
Defensive chasers are almost always ahead of the kicker, who is often deep in the 22 or in-goal area. Defenders know that there will be a kick for touch, so they are well prepared to stop the attacking team’s inherent advantage.
If the ball was not treated as being dead when it crosses the line, then defenders would have to wait to be put onside or retreat 10 metres.
The defending chasers stop the attacking team taking a quick throw, while the balance of the defending team restructures itself at leisure. The defensive team should not have this benefit.
So, the rule change would then be to treat the ball as being ‘alive’ only for the purposes of marking the point forward of which the defensive chasers cannot advance.
Enable the attacking team to retreat and take a quick throw. This has obvious advantages for the flow of the game and gives the attacking team the advantage it deserves.
That’s how I’d use the IRB’s magic wand.