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Rod Macqueen concerned by new rugby union laws



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    World Cup-winning Wallabies coach Rod Macqueen has warned new law amendments for the breakdown could risk making rugby union resemble unlimited tackle rugby league.

    The new rules, already in force in the northern hemisphere, will be in evidence when Australia’s teams begin their Super Rugby campaigns this week and will also be enforced when the Wallabies contest the Rugby Championship.

    Macqueen cited the recent Six Nations Test between Ireland and Wales as an example of how the amendments could change the way the game is played by reducing the contest for possession at the breakdown.

    Late in the game Ireland put together a massive 41 phases of possession to get five-eighth Jonathan Sexton into a position to kick a match-winning field goal.

    “One of the things we saw was 41 phases the other day,” Macqueen said. “It is scary to start seeing 41 phases.

    “I wonder whether under the previous interpretation of the law whether that would have happened.”

    Six amendments, including changes to the scrum, have been introduced in an effort to make the game simpler to play and referee, but it’s the ones relating to the breakdown that concern Macqueen.

    The tackler, who must still get up before playing the ball, now also has to return to their side of the tackle “gate”.

    Players on their feet may use their hands to pick up the ball at the ruck as long as this is immediate, but as soon as an opposition player arrives hands can no longer be used.

    As a result, the amendments have the potential to reduce the contest for possession at the breakdown, encouraging teams to try to hold onto the ball for longer periods of time.

    Asked whether he thought the law amendments could make rugby look like unlimited tackle rugby league, Macqueen said: “That is a concern because rugby is a contest for possession and a game for all shapes and sizes.

    “You don’t want to take away the contest for possession too much.”

    Macqueen said it would take time to understand all the ramifications of the amendments, but the coaches and players who adapted to them the best would have a competitive advantage.

    “We have to see what the consequences of the laws are over a period of time,” Macqueen said. “It’s probably early days to see where it is going. You won’t see the ramifications of the changes until you see how the coaches and the players react to it and the referees.

    “I’m sure they (the coaches) will know it, but whoever gets onto it and understands it and starts training for it will have an advantage.”

    Macqueen said there were too many laws governing the breakdown, which was the biggest issue in the game.

    “At any one time either side can be breaking those laws,” Macqueen said. “Unfortunately, it is the interpretation of the referee as to which one he actually picks on.

    “They are now basically directing the referees which way to go.”

    © AAP 2018

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    The Crowd Says (27)

    • Roar Guru

      February 20th 2018 @ 3:23pm
      John R said | February 20th 2018 @ 3:23pm | ! Report

      After watching the Wallabies bash away aimlessly at England for 20+ phases for no gain, I have to say I agree with McQueen here aye. Purely from an enjoyment perspective, so double that would be fair miserable.

      I understand it’s around player safety, but when I’m explaining to AFL fans why Union is so much better than League, the ball constantly being in contest is a key point. KEY. Will suck to have another exception in the rules to explain.

      • February 20th 2018 @ 6:19pm
        Dave_S said | February 20th 2018 @ 6:19pm | ! Report

        Yep, and it ends up even worse than league (which I enjoy fwiw) because league players have the advantage of the defence being back the 10m, fewer defenders on the field, better attacking skills in most of the forwards, and their playmakers have more practice at finding a way through a set defence. None of the current Aus 10s would get a gig with an NRL side.

        We are about to see a lot of pretty ordinary and pointless attack, I fear.

        • February 20th 2018 @ 8:04pm
          Fionn said | February 20th 2018 @ 8:04pm | ! Report

          Yep. Law change back now please.

          I want more rucking contests, not less.

        • February 20th 2018 @ 10:33pm
          Panopticon said | February 20th 2018 @ 10:33pm | ! Report

          Really? You’d have to be asleep not to look good with 10 metres to work with. Think you are blowing smoke up league’s derrière for no good reason.

      • February 21st 2018 @ 9:41am
        Bib said | February 21st 2018 @ 9:41am | ! Report

        While Macqueen may or may not have a point (I haven’t made up my mind yet) I think the wallabies inability to score anything after 20+ phases has more to do with Foley’s inability to guide a team around the park and spark attack beyond himself running into gaps.

    • February 20th 2018 @ 3:53pm
      AndyS said | February 20th 2018 @ 3:53pm | ! Report

      “At any one time either side can be breaking those laws”

      But the reality is that they keep messing with the laws because at any one time, both teams are probably breaking the laws. Which is entirely consistent with one of the most basic ethos of rugby, which is that you can do what you like as long as you don’t get caught. So it only really matters what the ref decides he is going to look at, which might be this new change or something completely else. Probably wouldn’t have been necessary at all if they were applying half the laws they already have, so can’t see it changing much.

    • February 20th 2018 @ 7:43pm
      MH01 said | February 20th 2018 @ 7:43pm | ! Report

      Ireland plays wales this weekend .

      • February 21st 2018 @ 7:13pm
        mtiger said | February 21st 2018 @ 7:13pm | ! Report


    • February 20th 2018 @ 8:55pm
      Rhys Bosley said | February 20th 2018 @ 8:55pm | ! Report

      The thing I don’t understand about the laws is whether the requirement for “no hands to be used” when the opposition player arrives, means that a player already over the ball and trying to force a penalty had to let go. If not a specialist pilferer like Pocock will still be valuable, if so less so.

      Other than that I can see teams emphasising choke tackles and counter rucking as an alternative to pilfering. That should favour more big boys when tackling in the forwards, so perhaps we will see a move to bigger 7s of the Schalk Burger type.

      • February 20th 2018 @ 9:05pm
        Fionn said | February 20th 2018 @ 9:05pm | ! Report

        Rhys, I do wonder if these laws will mean that eventually 7s will become closer to 6s in size, and whether we will end up in a situation in which top international teams have 5 line out targets.

        ‘The sport for all shapes and sizes’ is gradually losing that aspect I fear…

        • February 20th 2018 @ 10:58pm
          Londoner said | February 20th 2018 @ 10:58pm | ! Report

          That all shapes and sizes went with amateur era….. A wing now is standard 1.85m and 90kg of lean muscle.

        • February 21st 2018 @ 12:15am
          Rhys Bosley said | February 21st 2018 @ 12:15am | ! Report

          I reckon there will definitely be a move to bigger sevens Fionn and that it would have happened irrespective of the new rules. Think Burger for South Africa and Haskill for England, both big enough to be sixes or eights but play/ed on the open side.

          The good teams nowdays seem to emphasise the entire teams getting turnovers by multiple methods, rather than relying on a specialist pilferer, and I think it is the right move. The problem with a specialist pilferer at seven is that he can be played out of the game by a smart team, like the All Blacks did with Pocock and their blindside play during the World Cup final. And a lot of hookers are the right body type to play that role now anyway, think about how good du Plessis was, as good as most sevens.

          All other things being equal, I reckon if you have a bigger loose forward you should play him, the weight and height are always valuable. In the Aussie conference Dempsey and Korcyzk best fit the physical description of the types of player I think we will see filling the seven spot in the future.

          As for Pocock, I always thought it was a shame that he didn’t get trained as a hooker when it became in about 2011 that the seven role was becoming more generalist, as epitomised by McCaw. Pocock certainly has the body type and the brains to learn to be a good hooker, but if they were going to do that they have left it too long.

          • February 21st 2018 @ 11:32am
            Fionn said | February 21st 2018 @ 11:32am | ! Report

            I agree Dempsey looks like he should be a 7 longterm, and Liam Wright is of a similar size I believe. Shame Dempsey is so injury prone currently.

            I never saw a 7 as a pure pilferer. McCaw was excellent at the breakdown but also a great link player, defender and ball runner. Smith was the same with less tight ball running and more skills. I think Pocock is the exception rather than the rule in terms of a 7 just being a ruck monkey.

          • February 21st 2018 @ 11:35am
            Fionn said | February 21st 2018 @ 11:35am | ! Report

            Malcolm Marx looks like he could be better than Bismarck and on the same level as Pocock, Smith and McCaw at the breakdown.

      • Roar Guru

        February 21st 2018 @ 12:08pm
        Train Without A Station said | February 21st 2018 @ 12:08pm | ! Report

        They should not as the situation is the same.

        Under the previous laws that was legal as you had beaten the ruck. Which would still be the case.

    • Roar Guru

      February 21st 2018 @ 12:17am
      Harry Jones said | February 21st 2018 @ 12:17am | ! Report

      I think this 41-phase thing is a bit overstated.

      France was playing the percentages: ahead, a minute left, Ireland struggling to cross halfway, in the rain. Sexton cramped up. Very few carries were clearly over the gain line. There was no need to pilfer. Tackle hard and wait for the knock on.

      Ireland was going nowhere; then, at Phase 20, Sexton tried a miracle cross kick and Earls got into French half.

      Reset. But still, better to give Sexton a 42 m drop attempt in the rain, than a 35 m kick off the tee. So, no pilfer attempt.

      So I think it was a pretty unique situation.

      In Stormers v Jaguares, plenty of TO attempts and successes…

      • February 21st 2018 @ 2:00am
        Bakkies said | February 21st 2018 @ 2:00am | ! Report

        Exactly Harry and make the wrong decision doing that under the recent law change which allows the opposition to kick the ball in touch off a penalty when time is up gives Ireland a chance to go within kicking range.

      • February 23rd 2018 @ 6:37pm
        FunBus said | February 23rd 2018 @ 6:37pm | ! Report

        Spot-on Harry. A number of years ago Munster with Ronan O’Gara also had a 41 phase drop goal. The opposition simply backed off as a percentage play.

    • February 21st 2018 @ 2:07am
      Geoff said | February 21st 2018 @ 2:07am | ! Report

      One would be remiss if you did not look at the playing style of the Brumbies under Macqueen, he lead the charge of unlimited tackle rugby and had his team running up 20 plus phases regularly, his boring and predictable game while being successful was one of the reasons world rugby changed the ruck laws, so i call hypocrite on Macqueen, when you were coaching this was the style your were totally committed too, so suck it up Rod.

      • Roar Guru

        February 21st 2018 @ 3:14am
        Harry Jones said | February 21st 2018 @ 3:14am | ! Report

        Also, there are still plenty of small guys in rugby. If anything, scrumhalves are even more like gymnasts and yoga gurus than ever. Plenty of smallish 9s, 10s, and other backs: George Ford, Aaron Cruden, Pat Lambie, Aaron Smith, Faf de Klerk, Ben Youngs, Wes Fofana, Bernard Foley, Finn Russell, Stu Hogg, Greig Laidlaw, etc. Also, some top forwards are not that big, even now: Michael Hooper, Kwagga Smith, CJ Stander, Matt Todd, etc.

        • February 21st 2018 @ 11:11am
          Bakkies said | February 21st 2018 @ 11:11am | ! Report

          Dan Leavy, Josh van der Flier, James Davies, Yannick Nyanga.

          Leavy put on a breakdown clinic a few weeks back against Montpellier. It is just hysteria that normally occurs in Super Rugby we saw that with the IRB deciding to enforce the dangerous tackle law to stop referees like Jaco Peyper not following the laws and guidelines.

          All the changes are saying that players who go for a turnover have to be on the right side of the ball facing the opposition’s goal line and make it clearer for referees it to stating when a tackle becomes a ruck.