The Wrap: Yes, there is a way forward through rugby’s confusing malaise

Geoff Parkes Columnist

By Geoff Parkes, Geoff Parkes is a Roar Expert


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    To mangle a quote attributed to Mark Twain, reports of rugby’s death have proven to be greatly exaggerated.

    Round 17 of Super Rugby threw up enough surprise results and brilliant individual performances to keep the great game alive for at least another week, despite obituaries shouted by outraged fans and commentators – some of whom really should know better.

    To be clear; rugby is still ‘the game they play in heaven’, not ‘the game that died and went to heaven.’

    Pity thus the Twitter merchants who proclaimed with each intervention of TMO Ben Skeen, ‘That’s it for rugby. I’m out. I’m done. Done.’ No more for them the silky running of Solomona Alaimalo and Bautista Delguy, the blistering gallop of Jaguares big-man Guido ‘Tom’ Petti, the insistence of Tom Cusack to put his body on the line for his team’s cause, the rubber-band qualities of the Sunwolves, or the peerless trip down memory lane from Liam Messam.

    Not to mention a try of such stunning and audacious brilliance by TJ Perenara it had everyone who saw it assuming he must have been offside, when he wasn’t.

    To deny that rugby is going through a rough patch is a bit like pretending that America has nailed gun control. Conflicting objectives like player safety and the retention of rugby’s ‘contest for the ball’ essence are making for uneasy bedfellows. The availability and use of technology, the increased athletic ability of players, and the ability of World Rugby to frame and administer laws to keep up with a rapidly evolving game, all add fuel to a complex fire.

    But when the outrage from commentators – many of whom are ignorant of the laws of the game – is stripped back, what is exposed are problems that are not an existential threat to the sport at all, but merely another set of challenges for the game in line with many that have gone before it.

    Find any New Zealand rugby fan old enough to remember when milk was delivered by truck and having a ‘Gaytime’ didn’t require a national referendum, drop the name ‘Bob Deans’, and observe the reaction. Or consider how the 1960s and 70s were marked by all rugby nations struggling to cope with ‘hometown’ refereeing, with accusations of cheating flying across the news wires north and south, east and west.

    Into the 1980s, the argument shifted slightly, from an issue of partiality to one of interpretation. Northern Hemisphere referees blowing the pea out of the whistle to stymie Southern Hemisphere nations who wanted to play ‘real’ rugby; and vice-versa, northerners complaining of southern referees ignoring the law book.

    Andre Watson versus George Gregan in the early 2000s, Wayne Barnes in 2007, Craig Joubert in 2015. And not just in rugby too. For many, Australia’s 2018 Football World Cup finals campaign was cruelled from the start by dubious application of the VAR system. And this NRL season has been littered with complaints about how refereeing interpretations are ‘killing the game’.

    Sound familiar?

    The truth is, rugby is no different to any other sport, but with the outrage meter currently stuck on extreme, how can rugby pick its way through this current malaise?

    The first requirement is recognition and reinforcement that the game of rugby, its law-setting and application of those laws, are a global proposition. This is useful because it requires that people in pockets of discontent slow down and draw breath, and understand that their problems and solutions are matters for the whole game, and it also demands that World Rugby own the situation, and finds the means to provide solutions in a timely manner – no bad thing.

    Secondly, actual problems must be clearly defined. Is the pressing issue that an athlete with the vertical leap of Israel Folau be allowed to compete for the ball in the air, without fear of being banished from the game? Or is the key issue the consistent interruption to the game by overzealous TMOs?

    Israel Folau flies high

    (AAP Image/Craig Golding)

    Is player safety the main concern? Or is it ensuring the longevity of the sport by making the game more attractive – whatever that actually means? Or making rugby less threatening for parents considering whether they allow their children to play or not? Or is it more important that the brandishing of yellow and red cards aren’t allowed to ‘ruin’ a match?

    Perhaps, in order to encapsulate all of these matters into one, are we better to ask, are the laws of rugby fit for purpose?

    The outraged or cynical may disagree but World Rugby’s lawmaking process is by no means an afterthought, and many good rugby men have invested thousands of hours into devising a modern law book that – for the most part – serves the game well.

    But what is different in 2018 is that:

    1. Aspects of the game are evolving faster than the lawmaking and review process, and
    2. The advent of technology – introduced to provide more certainty – is in fact proving discordant when applied to a law book whose interpretation has always required, and continues to require, subjective interpretation.

    While there are amendments made and guidelines introduced on a regular basis, for the game to remain cohesive laws cannot be added willy-nilly so as to introduce unintended consequences, and simply shift a problem to somewhere else.

    So while specific issues need to be dealt with as they arise – in the current climate, let’s say the matter of players contesting the ball in the air – the underlying principle must be that each individual law must reflect an objective that consistently underpins the whole lawbook.

    To use an example, those who say things like, ‘I understand the need for safety and all that, but Folau must be allowed to jump and compete for the ball and if there is a collision that’s just part of the game’, don’t actually understand this point at all. They are ‘cherry picking’ and do not truly recognise what is at the heart of the safety concerns.

    At the most fundamental level, rugby’s lawmakers have to determine what is an acceptable level of risk of injury for players, and what elements of the game must be preserved at all costs, so as for rugby to retain its essence as the game that we know and love.

    To date, rugby has managed to do this reasonably well. A spate of life-changing spinal injuries in the 1980s was met with a range of law changes, technique and coaching measures that – while not eliminating danger entirely – has made the sport inherently safer, without detracting from its essence.

    More recently, protocols have been introduced that have improved recognition of and behaviour around concussion issues. These have been accompanied by attitude changes at all levels of the game that indicate that rugby people do have the ability to shift with the times, for the better, when the situation demands it.

    The piece that has largely been missed in the current debate is a specific determination of what type of injury is an acceptable risk. Using examples from the weekend, I’d argue that TMO intervention against the Waratahs’ Bernard Foley and the Reds’ Taniela Tupou was unwarranted.

    Tupou made a clumsy looking tackle, but it did involve the use of an arm, it wasn’t potentially dangerous, nor was there a deleterious outcome for an opponent; while in Foley’s case, the Rebels’ Anaru Rangi slipped over entering contact, and hit his head on Foley’s shoulder.

    These are the types of things that happen on a rugby pitch that may or may not result in injury, that are part and parcel of the game, and represent an acceptable level of risk. They most certainly do not justify the continuity of the game being interrupted.

    On the other hand, Reds winger Jordan Petaia lifted Blues fullback Michael Collins, tipped him past horizontal, and while he didn’t continue on and drive Collins into the ground, Collins was only prevented from landing on his head or neck because he happened (by chance) to have an arm free to break the fall. Petaia’s yellow card was entirely justified.

    The key difference in these examples – and in the case of Peter O’Mahoney and Beauden Barrett being concussed in the June internationals – is that the potential for head, neck and spinal injuries must never be an acceptable level of risk.

    Yes, rugby is a hard man’s game and long may it remain so. An argument exists that foul play should be adjudicated on the basis of how foul the intent is, not how foul the outcome is. Applied generally, that is a fair objective, but in our society we are rightly held culpable for serious actions (say a motor vehicle accident causing the death of someone else), regardless of intent.

    Benjamin Fall of France tackles Beauden Barrett of the All Blacks in the air

    (Photo by Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images)

    Despite the Benjamin Fall/Barrett incident, and setting aside arguments about whether Fall was impeded or not, players, coaches and referees have adjusted well to situations regarding the catching of high kicks. For the amount of rugby played, and number of kicks made, incidents are few, and most players now inherently know when it is safe and lawful to jump and attempt a catch, or when to hang back and tackle the catcher once he has landed safely.

    Folau’s case is problematic because it involves a rare case of an athlete of exceptional leaping ability, it involves a set-piece maneuver, and it introduces the concept of players being lifted in the air and their culpability. It is as if everything about these situations is set-up to almost guarantee a dangerous or controversial outcome.

    It may well be that lifting of players except at line-out will be outlawed as part of a review; which would of course only make it more enticing for Australia to use Folau as a leaping weapon from kick-offs, potentially posing even greater risk of chaos and injury as he soars above the shoulders and flailing arms of defenders.

    In any event, it is highly probable that the existing law has it about right. Except in an obvious case, there is little hope of a referee or TMO accurately adjudicating in real time, any potential level of liability for the lifter, particularly once the player he is holding is bumped in any way.

    As long as all competing players grab for the ball and keep their hands off each other while in the air, then it is ‘play on’. But either player grabbing at the opponent’s body must open them up to (an outcomes-based) sanction.

    If it proves too difficult for Folau to ensure that he can’t compete without infringing in this way, and he is thus discouraged from repeating the action, then so be it.

    Israel Folau Australia Wallabies Rugby Union 2016

    (AAP Image/Dave Hunt)

    If that, or a side going a man down, is the price paid to prevent a serious head, neck or spinal injury, it is a price worth paying.

    With respect to technology, television reviews are helpful when matters are absolute. Tennis is the shining example; is the ball in or out? One look, yes or no, move it along. Rugby’s closest equivalent might be a winger planting the ball down in the corner; did he step on the touch-line or not? The game is the better for taking the guesswork out of these situations and getting these calls (overwhelmingly) right.

    The existence of the TMO is also a powerful deterrent against foul and/or dangerous play off the ball. No serious rugby person would welcome a return to the days of thuggery and ‘street justice’ that would inevitably follow the abolition of the TMO for detecting and ruling on such matters.

    But greater refinement is needed. Often it is not clear who exactly is in charge. In the third Test between New Zealand and France, referee John Lacey asked a specific question of TMO George Ayoub that Ayoub ignored, instead providing his own ruling.

    In the first Australia versus Ireland Test, TMO Skeen ruled a no-try against Ireland using vision that only he had access to – while referee Marius van Der Westhuizen, the players, and hundreds of thousands of viewers looked on, bemused.

    The NRL’s ‘bunker’ has taken some time to bed down, but the speed at which decisions are now made, the consistency in the decision-making process, and the clarity around what it is and isn’t used for, must surely have piqued World Rugby’s interest.

    The NRL Bunker has been a major source of derision in 2016

    While passion is a key element in rugby, it is useful to set emotion aside for a moment, in order to confirm an appropriate framework by which the game can be administered, played and enjoyed.

    This can be captured broadly in four aspects:

    • World Rugby ensuring that the laws of rugby are underpinned by the determination and reinforcement of what are unacceptable levels of risk (head, neck and spinal injuries), and that within this constraint, the essence and ethos of rugby as a contest for the ball is maintained
    • That laws and their periodic amendments are communicated clearly and widely so that all participants in the game understand their intent and application
    • That, allowing for the subjectivity of elements of decision making, laws are applied consistently and without contradiction by suitably trained and rugby empathetic referees, TMOs and judiciary officers
    • That administrators, coaches, players, media commentators and fans take it upon themselves to fully understand the laws of the game, their intent and application, the subjective nature of their application, and stop being outraged and get on with the game.
    Geoff Parkes
    Geoff Parkes

    Geoff is a Melbourne-based sports fanatic and writer who started contributing to The Roar in 2012 under the pen name Allanthus. His first book, A World in Union Conflict; The Global Battle For Rugby Supremacy, was released in December 2017 to critical acclaim. For details on the book visit Meanwhile, his twin goals of achieving a single figure golf handicap and owning a fast racehorse remain tantalisingly out of reach.

    Getting hassled by a parent or partner about spending too much time playing video games? Now, you can tell them the story of how some ordinary gamers scored $225k for just seven weeks of work.

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    The Crowd Says (281)

    • July 2nd 2018 @ 8:14am
      MaxP said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:14am | ! Report

      Geoff, I’ll skip quickly over the “great article “ stuff. You know it’s good. 😄 Forgive me if I missed it when skimming over your article, but one thing that I think has been missed in the conversation on contesting the ball in the air is that of fairness. Rugby’s most wonderful principle is that there is an even contest for the ball at all times. The use of a lifter to contest the ball removes the even contest. An attacking player cannot (in a practical sense due to the onside laws) use one therefore the defender shouldn’t be able to. Even up the contest and make it safer.

      • Columnist

        July 2nd 2018 @ 8:48am
        Geoff Parkes said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:48am | ! Report

        Yes, apologies Max, it’s a very long piece.
        It’s usually frowned upon, but people are excused today from commenting on the headline only 🙂

        It’s a very big issue however, with many points contained within, to cover and discuss.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:38am
          MaxP said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:38am | ! Report

          Yes, there’s a lot to take in with your article. Another point picked up is regarding the TMO deterring thuggish/foul play. Couldn’t agree more. As much as I miss the good old days where rucking the hell out of the opposition was semi-legitimate (and let’s admit being on the receiving end and getting back up was pretty good too), there is no room for it today. But, as you pointed out, the rules allow for interpretation and it’s most often easy to see the difference between foul/thuggish play and simply getting it wrong in a physical and dynamic game. Players get it wrong, or the ball carrier slips etc. But surely we can see it is not thuggish. Penalise them and even sanction them after the game , but don’t send them off or review it minutes after the event. If the ref and assistants can’t see it in real time and it’s not blatant thuggery, let the game go on

          • Roar Rookie

            July 2nd 2018 @ 9:41pm
            Kirky said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:41pm | ! Report

            Max P: Couldn’t agree more, as some of the red cards issued are for very trivial events and totally unwarranted! ~ As you say ”sanction them afterwards but don’t send them off, ~ that sending off of any player (unless it is really warranted) by red card, diminishes the quality of any game and upsets the multitudes who have in almost every case, particularly say, in the World Cup when those very multitudes have paid huge money to see a good game, all it does is alienate the average rugby follower!

            • July 3rd 2018 @ 6:49am
              Bakkies said | July 3rd 2018 @ 6:49am | ! Report

              They aren’t being sanctioned afterwards.

      • July 2nd 2018 @ 9:17am
        ClarkeG said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:17am | ! Report

        Sorry Max – what is stopping the kicking team from lifting one of their own players when jumping for a ball?

        Yes, you can’t be ahead of the kicker, but that doesn’t exactly stop them from lifting a team mate does it.

        Id suggest the “wonderful principle” of an even contest you talk of, is of greater concern in other areas of the game.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:44am
          MaxP said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:44am | ! Report

          You’re right, they can do it. It’s just harder in practice to set a jumper as the attacking team is generally moving forward and don’t have the time or space to run forward, set and lift. The receiving team, especially from kick offs, are generally static and can set, place blockers (often in contravention of the laws) and lift. Remove the lift, police blocking more closely and let both players jump equally. Yes, they will bump each other and perhaps fall awkwardly, but it’s an even contest

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 1:56pm
            Morsie said | July 2nd 2018 @ 1:56pm | ! Report

            Scenario. Receiving team, utilising a a single lifter, lifts a jumper to receive a kick-off, attacking team does not compete, lifter has poor technique, jumper overbalances, falls on his head and is injured. Surely the way the game is evolving at the moment the lifter should get yellow carded or at the very least the attacking team receive a penalty. This is where this nonsense is taking us.

            • Columnist

              July 2nd 2018 @ 2:42pm
              Geoff Parkes said | July 2nd 2018 @ 2:42pm | ! Report

              No it isn’t Morsie.

              That happens now with the line-out. Occasionally a player gets dropped and if it is clear that it is not due to contact by an opponent the referee will call play on.

              Exactly as it should be.

              • July 2nd 2018 @ 6:30pm
                Boonzie said | July 2nd 2018 @ 6:30pm | ! Report

                This is the weird thing. Apparently it can’t be dangerous play if you wear the same colour… Which obviously it is if you throw someone in the air and they come down on their head.

            • July 2nd 2018 @ 8:04pm
              Dirk Suave said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:04pm | ! Report

              I remeber refereeing in the mid 1990s and being instructed by referee coaches (yes, they do have coaches, not just assessors!) to tell lifters at lineouts to take their player up safely and bring them down safely. I do remeber a refereeing colleague penalising teams when this did not happen. These teams sorted there lifting pretty quickly!

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 8:59pm
            ClarkeG said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:59pm | ! Report

            Max – presumably teams kick for a reason.

            If by kicking the ball teams place themselves in an “uneven contest ” perhaps they should consider alternatives.

      • July 2nd 2018 @ 9:22am
        StuM said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:22am | ! Report

        Agree entirely. Lifting must be seen as cheating, as it gives an unfair advantage, and should be removed from the game entirely, imo. Remove it from lineouts too, have them just like they used to be. It’s also extremely dangerous to lift a big guy into the air, then contest a football. Common sense says that’s a completely stupid thing to do.

        • Columnist

          July 2nd 2018 @ 10:14am
          Geoff Parkes said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:14am | ! Report

          Not sure how old you are Stu, but the only reason that lifting was eventually allowed in line-outs was because coaches and players found a way around it, and it became almost impossible for referees to police.

          If social media had been around at the time I promise you there would have been a far greater furore about it than the current debate.

          South Africa were the masters at it, having the jumper making a dynamic leap, and his blockers, front and back, immediately wedge their shoulders under the jumper’s backside, effectively holding him up in the air, for the hooker to hit him with the throw.

          Technically not lifting, but from there, a very short shift to actual lifting. Rather than put up with all the arguments and ref bashing, the simplest thing to do at the time was to amend the laws to allow it – and in general, you’d have to say that it has allowed for a cleaner contest at the lineout.

          • Roar Pro

            July 2nd 2018 @ 11:15am
            Bakkies said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:15am | ! Report

            Lifting was brought in to tidy up lineouts which were a mess and also dominated by locks like Bayfield, Eales and Ian Jones who were much taller than their counterparts.

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 12:29pm
            MaxP said | July 2nd 2018 @ 12:29pm | ! Report

            Banning the general play lift would likewise clean up the game and make it less risky all round. Will also make it easier to adjudicate on whether a player fell badly due to being pulled down. At the moment, it is unclear whether it was a poor lift or an arm from the contesting player. In the third test I think it was a combination of both. But without the lift it would be unequivocal, the ruling would take less time, and the yellow card justified. Alternatively,without the lift I don’t think O’Mahony would have fallen given the severity of the contact. He would have continued playing uninjured, there would have been no card, and the game would have gone on. In every respect a better outcome (except for missing the opportunity to waste half a day banging on about it on the Roar!)

            • Roar Guru

              July 2nd 2018 @ 4:42pm
              taylorman said | July 2nd 2018 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

              What evidence do you have that banning lifting will tidy it up?

              Have you considered the alternatives to combatting someone like Folau at kick off time?

              Well heres one. Kicks goes up, Read takes off from twenty meters back left of the kick, Ben Smith takes off bavk right of the kick and all three go up from opposite directions to contest the ball. The combined velocity and directions of all three players all meeting at the same point Id suggest has worse implications.

              Do you really think the ABs are going to stand under the ball and allow Folau a ten to fifteen meter running start at the ball while they wait under it?

              Na. Be careful what you wish for, because it could be worse. But how would we know? No ones bothered ao analyse the alternatives to lifting.

              • July 2nd 2018 @ 7:54pm
                MaxP said | July 2nd 2018 @ 7:54pm | ! Report

                I don’t think it will tidy up the risk of injuries per se. Although I think a player falling from a natural jumping height, and not at an arms reach and dependent on someone else to keep them stable, is at less risk of falling on their head (unless their legs are taken out, which is a different scenario altogether). But it will make it easier to differentiate between a fall caused by interference by an opponent and poor lifting. And less time with TMO analysing and more time playing has got to be a good thing. Right?

              • July 2nd 2018 @ 8:53pm
                Objective said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:53pm | ! Report

                Ever heard of AFL? Happens all the time with very few injuries

              • Roar Pro

                July 3rd 2018 @ 8:03am
                Bakkies said | July 3rd 2018 @ 8:03am | ! Report

                AFL is not relevant to this discussion. Kicks are rarely chased in that game like they are in Rugby.

            • Roar Guru

              July 2nd 2018 @ 4:58pm
              Ralph said | July 2nd 2018 @ 4:58pm | ! Report

              Another way to make it less risky might be to make it illegal to take people out in the air (regardless of circumstances). If you contact someone in the air and there is any negative outcome then you are held responsible.

              That way we get as much aerial action as practical but police the risk area.

              I think players will adjust their technique around this ruling.

              • Roar Guru

                July 2nd 2018 @ 5:04pm
                Train Without A Station said | July 2nd 2018 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

                That’s a ludicrous thing to do. It’s detached from reality.

                You are talking about moving targets and relying on the actions of others. A player jumping up into a contest doesn’t know if another player is going to also jump, what height they will jump, etc.

              • July 2nd 2018 @ 7:58pm
                MaxP said | July 2nd 2018 @ 7:58pm | ! Report

                I agree with TWAS. It’s a contact sport. Two players or more contesting the ball in the air, with contact, should be fine. So long as they don’t go for the head or the legs, play on. My whole thinking on this is make it a good legal contest. If one player goes for the ball harder than the other, and the opponent gets hurt, that’s rugby. But going for the ball is the important thing here. Once they’ve got past the point of getting the ball, hands off. Simple

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 5:37pm
          double agent said | July 2nd 2018 @ 5:37pm | ! Report

          Lifting in lineouts effectively put a stop to endlessly kicking for touch.

      • Roar Rookie

        July 2nd 2018 @ 9:40am
        Paul D said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:40am | ! Report

        “The use of a lifter to contest the ball removes the even contest”

        This is kind of where my problem with it is. In a L/O it’s lifter on lifter and they are very strict about contact in the air for obvious reasons. Contesting a kick in a dynamic setting is always going to be much harder to maintain the safety of lifted players.

        If Folau had just gone up in line to contest shoulder to shoulder (instead of trying to reach over from the side). It’s likely the outcome would be similar, and possibly he might be spun also by the lifter taking his legs out in contact. But who would be at fault? Would anybody be at fault?

        It’s a very unique situation because very few humans can actually compete with a lifted player. Ban lifting and you essentially surrender the air to the Folau’s of the Rugby world. Allow lifting and you are almost eliminating the ability to safely contest.

        • Roar Guru

          July 2nd 2018 @ 9:49am
          Train Without A Station said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:49am | ! Report

          I don’t think it has to be an even contest. Rugby is full of contests skewed towards one team (line out and scrum).

          But surely looking at the danger of one man lifts is more in the ethos of the game than trying to limit the ability to contest.

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 11:05am
            MaxP said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:05am | ! Report

            You are right to a degree TWAS. But the feed to the line out and scrum recognises advantage to one team in recognition of a choice (to kick the ball out and gain territory for example) or mistake made by the other team. The choice (an advantage) is offset by the advantage of controlling the feed/throw. Overall it ends up an even opportunity (if straight throws and scrum feeds were properly policed).

        • Columnist

          July 2nd 2018 @ 9:58am
          Geoff Parkes said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:58am | ! Report

          Yes that’s the dilemma Paul.

          Rugby League has been through all of this already, drafting and developing wingers with a high vertical leap and lobbing the ball up for them on the goal-line. Their issue hasn’t proved to be one of safety, but one of predictability – instead of adding an extra dimension to the game, it actually makes it more one-dimensional.

          Folau made a running catch over his head in the Brisbane Test that was as thrilling a sight you’d ever want to see on a rugby pitch. But I don’t see how encouraging rugby to be played more in the air and less on the ground would be good for the game – both aesthetically and safety wise.

          • Roar Guru

            July 2nd 2018 @ 11:37am
            PeterK said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:37am | ! Report

            I disagree

            With defences having fast rush attacks and where offside is often ignored then encouraging attacks using the ball in the air adds variety, is entertaining, and allows a good counter weapon to such rushing defence.

            If you want to address safety then a far grater focus needs to be put on the ruck as well as the player in the air.

            Mere brushes of the head in a tackle can get you a yc yet in a ruck a player driven onto their head is ignored , a far more dangerous neck roll is ignored or only gets a penalty, tmo’s ignore players flipped high over 270 degrees onto their backs.

            • Columnist

              July 2nd 2018 @ 11:57am
              Geoff Parkes said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:57am | ! Report

              Not sure we’re actually disagreeing Peter. I like that rugby is a kicking game as much as it is a power game as much as it is a running/speed game.

              All I’m really saying is that I wouldn’t want to see the balance artificially skewed.

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 2:38pm
            Damage said | July 2nd 2018 @ 2:38pm | ! Report

            ^Oh I don’t know; how many contested balls in the air do you get in your average AFL game?

            Plenty, and they all don’t land on their head.

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 8:47pm
            The Joy Of X said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:47pm | ! Report

            @ Geoff Parkes 2.7

            and your comments ” Folau made a running catch over his head in the Brisbane Test that was as thrilling a sight you’d ever want to see on a rugby pitch. But I don’t see how encouraging rugby to be played more in the air and less on the ground would be good for the game- both aesthetically and safety wise”.

            Ever heard of a bloke called Tom Wills?

            Ever ruminated on why Australian Football is Australia’s biggest sport?
            And why Australian Football participation levels are booming in NSW, ACT, and Qld?

            • Columnist

              July 3rd 2018 @ 7:05am
              Geoff Parkes said | July 3rd 2018 @ 7:05am | ! Report

              It’s interesting X that there is a lot of criticism from AFL fans and commentators about the game becoming less attractive because there is less kicking and more packs of players around the ball.
              So your point is understood.

              But rugby is a different game, played by people of different builds, with far more specific positional requirements, with a more distinct strength and set-piece element.

              Comparisons with other sports are useful and interesting, but at the end of the day we should enjoy and celebrate the differences.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 6:34pm
          Boonzie said | July 2nd 2018 @ 6:34pm | ! Report

          Maybe we should tie the shoe laces of those fast guys together too !

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 8:15pm
          The Joy Of X said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:15pm | ! Report

          @ Paul D 2.7

          and your comment “It’s a very unique situation because very few humans can actually compete with a lifted player”.

          This comment is incorrect. Are you an Australian?

          I assume you don’t know who Cazaly was, or the WW11 rallying cry by Australian troops as they charged the enemy, shouting “Up there, Cazaly”.

          You are obviously not an observer of the Australian game, and one of its quintissential features aka “hangers” or “speccies”.

          Just watch a few aerial contests in an AFL match.

          Or google

          .Jeremy Howe AFL Marking highlights
          .Charlie Curnow AFL Marking highlights

          .or, to see high leaping “midgets”(about 176cm) outjumping “giants”, google

          .Cyril Rioli AFL Marking highlights
          .Eddie Betts AFL Marking highlights

      • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:21am
        Jacko said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:21am | ! Report

        Max I do agree that using a lifter gives the side some sort of assistance in getting to the height they do, but no more of an advantage than jumping with momentum V jumping from a static position. If lifting is banned in all but lineout situations then receivers from kick-offs will be coming from a distance just as much as the chasers will and I believe that will create more danger rather than less danger as the catchers will be colliding at full speed.And it will be different than a general play catch as all players will be competing…..not just 1 on 1

        • Columnist

          July 2nd 2018 @ 10:41am
          Geoff Parkes said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:41am | ! Report

          I think that’s a real concern Jacko.
          A knee-jerk reaction to ban lifting has the potential to deliver even more problems elsewhere.

          • Roar Guru

            July 2nd 2018 @ 11:40am
            PeterK said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:40am | ! Report

            don’t agree.

            You see the same situation now with box kicks all the time.

            Both sides have players running in converging.

            By far in most cases the player arriving first gets rights and the other player stays out of it, or a fair contest happens. Since neither player is balanced precarously on a tilting fulcrum of hands neither player tips over.

            Instead players tipping with the lift of 1 player happens a lot more even when no contact is made.

            Actual statistical evidence of contests in the air support my view far more.

            • July 2nd 2018 @ 6:08pm
              Jacko said | July 2nd 2018 @ 6:08pm | ! Report

              Peter the box kick is contested by 2 or 3 people max….If its a kick-off then effectively you could have 5 or 6 specified jumpers from the receiving team making it far more dangerous than box kicking or general play kicking. If a team kicking off hopes to retain the ball they have to give it height…This allows the receiving team plenty of time to work out where the ball is going and they can flood the area with jumpers

          • Roar Guru

            July 2nd 2018 @ 3:47pm
            soapit said | July 2nd 2018 @ 3:47pm | ! Report

            coming from a distance but full in ctonrol of their body and able to adjust as they need to based on their changing balance in contact.

            its not the collision that causes the danger, its the falling on your head as a result.

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 5:25pm
            Dave said | July 2nd 2018 @ 5:25pm | ! Report

            What absolute complete nonsense. Banning lifting would make it identical to AFL and rugby league, and most box kicks in rugby. It’s far, far safer without lifting, fairer, and simply is a better spectacle.

            The reality is lifting regularly goes wrong when their is no challenger in the air anyway.

            The only difference was the Irish lifter just deliberately let go of the lifted player and let him fall on his head.

            Lifting for kick receptions was always stupid, banning Folau doesn’t change that.

            • Roar Rookie

              July 2nd 2018 @ 10:42pm
              Paulo said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:42pm | ! Report

              It is funny, that everyone says lifting regularly goes wrong without any interference from opposition players. And then they drag out this lift by the beast. Can you list a couple others where lifts have gone wrong without interference. Just curious, and if it is prevalent as it has been maintained, I assume it is easy to find some other examples aside from the Beasts lift.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:55am
          MaxP said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:55am | ! Report

          Aussie rules shows us that players running in to contest the ball in the air is, whilst not risk free, pretty safe. It occurs dozens of times a game generally without injury. They even allow players to step up on each other’s backs ( which I’m not advocating for rugby). As much as it pains me to say it, the Aussie Rules approach makes it far more spectacular for the fan than listening to Mr Skeen deliberate on whether a fingernail was wrapped the wrong way

          • Columnist

            July 2nd 2018 @ 11:02am
            Geoff Parkes said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:02am | ! Report

            It’s also a fundamental part of their game Max and is practised and perfected by all players from an early age. It’s only an incidental part of rugby, limited to a few players only, so it’s no surprise that there is a huge disparity in skill and outcomes.

            A parallel might be when we watch AFL players break tackles with ease because the tackler is jersey grabbing and not using their shoulder. Different games coming from different starting points.

            • July 2nd 2018 @ 11:15am
              MaxP said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:15am | ! Report

              I don’t think it’s incidental. Restarts are fundamental as are kicks in general play. Sure, in rugby it doesn’t occur as often as it does in Aussie Rules. The beauty of rugby is that it has everything: running, kicking, passing, tackling, hard physical work at the break down, scrums etc. There’s something for every body shape and skill type. You wouldn’t stack a team with 15 Folaus as you’d lose on other parts of the play. But having one or two with that an outstanding skill set contesting evenly would make it good to watch rather than what we’re seeing now. And others could also improve their skills and compete as necessary. Remember, it’s not that long ago when passing the ball was pretty much an incidental part of the game for a self-respecting prop😄

              • Roar Guru

                July 2nd 2018 @ 11:42am
                PeterK said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:42am | ! Report

                exactly, and already box kicks see this type of contest and less dangerous challenges happen since players have adjusted.

              • Columnist

                July 2nd 2018 @ 11:59am
                Geoff Parkes said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:59am | ! Report

                That’s a good point about ball playing forwards Max, and it illustrates how quickly the game evolves.

              • July 2nd 2018 @ 6:12pm
                Jacko said | July 2nd 2018 @ 6:12pm | ! Report

                But peter in a box kick situation the receiving team has 1 or 2 players in any sort of position to contest the ball…..In a kick-off situation the receiving team can position all 15 players wherever they want

              • July 2nd 2018 @ 8:07pm
                MaxP said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:07pm | ! Report

                And that’s fine. But positioning all 15 players to receive the kickoff comes with the risk of the kickoff going somewhere else. Tactics evolve with any rule change. When kick offs were off a mound of sand and therefore had less loft and control, it was pretty common to position a prop and second rower over the touch line to fool the kicker to kick deeper. That changed and so will the tactics if lifting was banned

      • Roar Rookie

        July 2nd 2018 @ 11:02am
        piru said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:02am | ! Report

        The use of a lifter to contest the ball removes the even contest. An attacking player cannot (in a practical sense due to the onside laws) use one therefore the defender shouldn’t be able to. Even up the contest and make it safer.

        The kicking team decides where the ball will go, unless they are to agree with the opponent beforehand on an appointed spot it would seem they already have an advantage

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 11:27am
          MaxP said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:27am | ! Report

          Possession of the ball gives an advantage of course. You can choose where to kick, run, pass. But rugby allows the defending team to contest for possession at all times. Rugby’s rules are designed to even this up as much as possible (imperfectly of course because one team has it, the other doesn’t). That’s why teams can’t pass forward, knock on, enter the ruck from the side, block off the ball carrier etc (with the befuddling exception of the rolling maul, where I’d say pulling it down should be legal- another day for that). If we consider the vertical space in the same way, allowing one side to lift a team mate above their opponent is providing an uneven contest. It’s vertical offside if you will. Yes, I understand the laws don’t prevent the attacker from lifting per se. But, as mentioned in another post, it’s an impractical proposition. Totally different to a line out where both teams have equal conditions to lift

          • Roar Rookie

            July 2nd 2018 @ 11:35am
            piru said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:35am | ! Report

            Rugby’s laws were also written when they played with a large heavy leather ball, kickers were nowhere near as accurate as they are now, nor players flying through the air like Folau and others do.

            The lift in general play is the defence’s way of evening the contest – Folau (or any attacking player) can be at full noise and time their jump to near perfection, the defenders can’t.

            What they can do is get into a reasonably close guess to where it will be and, if they are quick enough and read the kick well enough, get a player lifted up to compete.

            Banning the lift imo goes against the principle of the ball being in contest.

            • Roar Guru

              July 2nd 2018 @ 11:45am
              PeterK said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:45am | ! Report

              of course a defender can be at full pace and run from the back just like an attacker does, they don’t have to lift, they just have to time their run and catch like an attacker does.

              Explain why a defender from deep say about 20 metres from the half way line i.e 10 metres back from the 10 metre line can’t run and leap like the attacker who has 10 metres to run can’t compete. Happens all the time on box kicks.

              • Roar Rookie

                July 2nd 2018 @ 11:47am
                piru said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:47am | ! Report

                Explain why a defender from deep say about 20 metres from the half way line i.e 10 metres back from the 10 metre line can’t run and leap like the attacker who has 10 metres to run can’t compete. Happens all the time on box kicks.

                Must be why they do it all the time?

                The defender has to wait for the ball to be kicked and then try to read where it will land – the attacker already knows. Try doing that at full pace while adjusting to arrive at the right spot.

                I thought I made that pretty clear

              • Roar Guru

                July 2nd 2018 @ 12:02pm
                PeterK said | July 2nd 2018 @ 12:02pm | ! Report

                they don’t do it all the time since beimng able to do a 1 man lift gives far far more advantage, running in makes it far more of a contest.

                Exactly the same as in a box kick the defender has to run in or be stationed under it, they still win more of them.

              • July 2nd 2018 @ 6:15pm
                Jacko said | July 2nd 2018 @ 6:15pm | ! Report

                This constant BOX KICK you are bringing up in every post is not even close to a kickoff situation

            • July 2nd 2018 @ 11:57am
              MaxP said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:57am | ! Report

              Michael Lynagh and Grant Fox could kick more accurately with a wet leather Ballymore ball than the current crop (Wallabies at least) can 😄

              The defending team can place players in a position where they think the ball will go and time their run in to make the best leap. As mentioned earlier, they do it all the time in Aussie rules. I bet if they changed the rules to prevent the lift, coaches and players will adapt their techniques really quickly (they do to every other change) and life will go on. But we won’t have problems with single lifters dropping their players. That’s where the real danger is. I once dropped a team mate in unopposed lineout practice, dislocating his shoulder. Wasn’t a strength problem as we’d been doing single lifts regularly including games. I tripped in a divot just as I lifted putting me off balance. If safety is the real driver in this crackdown, ban the lift

              • Roar Rookie

                July 2nd 2018 @ 12:20pm
                piru said | July 2nd 2018 @ 12:20pm | ! Report

                I don’t want to sound like I am a massive defender of lifting in GP as I really don’t think it matters too much if it’s banned – fair points, both you and PeterK

              • July 2nd 2018 @ 12:35pm
                MaxP said | July 2nd 2018 @ 12:35pm | ! Report

                Likewise not a huge opponent of it. As lovers of rugby I think we can all agree what we really want is laws and officiating that allows for a spectacle. This doesn’t mean foul thuggish play, but one that promotes the physical contest rather than sanctioning every case of poor timing, off technique and the mistakes that can occur when playing a physical game. I fear if things keep going as they are we’ll start to see diving (or dropping own players) simply to milk penalties. Already happens in the scrums

            • July 2nd 2018 @ 1:28pm
              cinque said | July 2nd 2018 @ 1:28pm | ! Report

              Agree with that. The one man lift will often thwart Folau from now on. Foley will have to vary it more, including deep for a charging Koirabete. Basically the kicking team will need two or three leapers plus a couple of chargers. Let the receivers sort that out if they can.
              For Australia, leapers could be Folau, DHP, Hodge, Hanigan, Arnold …

    • July 2nd 2018 @ 8:29am
      Old Bugger said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:29am | ! Report


      Firstly, congrats on your Chief’s pick – I also backed them for several reasons like a) The Landers left their fortress and home-base to go to Fiji which over the past 2 years, has been a home-away-from-home for the Chiefs b) The HL’s gave up the luxury of FB and its counter to any weather conditions to walk into a blustery, windy evening at 22deg-balmy if not for the wind c) The HLs ABs looked tired from the previous internationals, training and travel then to go to Fiji, just added another level of wearying impact and d) perhaps the hardest of all impacts – the coin toss which gave the Chiefs, first use of the wind even though, it had very little to do with how the Chiefs played except for a couple of mighty kicks by Ngatai and DM versus a bomb by Lima who didn’t find touch for want of trying to kick too far and the wind, preventing the ball from finding the sideline.

      Secondly, did you notice the kick-off to start the match and the collision between Bender and King Solomon?? Four things I noticed – first, Bender challenged front on into Alaimaano and didn’t turn sideways or enter backwards or even consider grabbing hold of Solomon and second, both players came down from their collision, by landing on their feet and finally, the ref correctly deciding to allow play to continue and the TMO rightfully following the middle-man’s lead.

      Mick Byrnes if anyone else, needs to get Folau aside and improve his leaping skills and folks need to fully grasp that collisions do happen but, there are always safer ways to approach certain aspects of the game rather than unsafe ways. Just look at how Bender approaches all of his leaps for the kicked ball – front on and with the knowledge that there’s another bloke doing the same thing in your direction, so care must be the primary issue, in that moment.

      Folau is an excellent leaper for the high kick ball but sometimes his technique, just let’s him down at critical times and it is those times, when the let-down becomes crucial to his ability to succeed with his attempt or fail and receive a caution, a YC or worse still, an RC.

      He can improve and, he has a skilful master who can help him, to improve.

      Lastly, the Chiefs have the Brumbies and Canes to play at home. Two wins plus a BP and I reckon, they will secure a home QF. Go the Chiefs……

      • July 2nd 2018 @ 8:45am
        Rugby Tragic said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:45am | ! Report

        OB, your pre-game assessment was spot on. I was influenced to pick the Highlanders through the absence of Big Brodie who I think is the best rugby player on this planet.

        I thought that the Chiefs might have been a little undermanned but in one half of rugby that thought was spectacularly exposed as wrong!

        Congratulations to the Chiefs supporters who will be all feeling pretty good with themselves after that display.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:34am
          Old Bugger said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:34am | ! Report

          Cheers RT…….it’s going to be a frantic next 2weeks.

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 3:13pm
            Muzzo said | July 2nd 2018 @ 3:13pm | ! Report

            Congrats OB, & what a game! By half time, it was really all over, with that particular scoreline, & geez was the missus serving it up to me with her Chiefs, running riot over my Landers. But honestly, mate, it’s got to be the paddock they were playing on, Lol, as all the 10 tries scored were all scored at the same end of the field! Yep six to the Chiefs & four to the Landers. Cheers mate.

            • July 3rd 2018 @ 10:51am
              Old Bugger said | July 3rd 2018 @ 10:51am | ! Report

              Yeah mate – now, its all on the line in the next fortnight…, win with a BP for the Chiefs and they should get the home QF. If not, they could be scrapping to just make, the final 8.

      • Columnist

        July 2nd 2018 @ 8:57am
        Geoff Parkes said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:57am | ! Report

        Hi OB,

        I’ll own up to having a wee gloat to the others in my pool, who tipped the Landers.
        Although I’ll admit to not believing they’d be 42-0 up at halftime…

        (And you will have noticed then, that the rest of my tipping for the weekend was very ordinary)

        Ben Smith is the best in the business. All coaches should have a show reel of him – showing how he decides to compete or not compete for the ball, and his jumping/catching technique – and use it to coach their players.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:34am
          Old Bugger said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:34am | ! Report

          Yeah mate, that HT score caught me also…….I was gobsmacked just as much as Goldie and Justine (sic) in the commentary…..

      • July 2nd 2018 @ 9:07am
        Boomeranga said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:07am | ! Report

        “Just look at how Bender approaches all of his leaps for the kicked ball – front on”

        In the second test Ireland made a particular effort at “funneling”, as it kept being called, Folau away from a direct line to the front of the contest. In the third he was only jumping to the rear perhaps in response to that. Smith won’t be successful either against the same tactic and would have to change his approach angle if he is to be part of the contest.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:42am
          Old Bugger said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:42am | ! Report

          Fair enough boomer but, Izzy must also recognise that there are inherent dangers in this particular play so if his opponents have tactics to make his approach that much more difficult, then he has to be assured that if he challenges under those conditions, his actions will not become unsafe.

          Since Izzy is the player running against the flight of the ball rather then into the flight, then IMO, he has that extra responsibility to ensure his actions, will be safe.

          I’m sure Byrnes will be in there with Izzy to sort these challenges out – he did it when he was with the ABs so I’m sure he can do the same, with the WBs.

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 11:02am
            Boomeranga said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:02am | ! Report

            Yeah. My post was just that Folau and POM isn’t a discussion on straight run approaches between two players. If Folau is going one on one without interference I would back him to legally win 9 of 10.

            I agree he has to change what he did in test 3 as its against the law of the game to grab a player who is in the air. Personally I don’t see much wrong with his standard method of leap / eyes / hands, but I think he should always jump at the front of the contest, and if getting “funnelled” away he should make a point of running into the “funnels”.

      • Roar Guru

        July 2nd 2018 @ 9:08am
        Diggercane said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:08am | ! Report

        Congrats OB, Chiefs do look good mate, a bit more luck with injuries at the right time and certainly look the lost likely to compete with the Crusaders up front in a knock out in Christchurch. Fun times ahead.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:36am
          Old Bugger said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:36am | ! Report

          Cheers Digsy but as always, the Canes v Chiefs is never short of being a match according to dynamics. The match in 2weeks time will be a sell-out I reckon, with everything on the line.

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 4:15pm
            Diggercane said | July 2nd 2018 @ 4:15pm | ! Report

            Cheers mate, well I certainly hope we can bring something to the party as we have been heading in the wrong direction for a while now and I am unsure it will be remedied any time soon.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 3:16pm
          Muzzo said | July 2nd 2018 @ 3:16pm | ! Report

          Geeez Digger, what happened to your Canes, mate? Like you had Superman flying through the air, on your side, & then!!!. Yep quite a few upsets over the weekend mate!1 Cheers.

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 4:17pm
            Diggercane said | July 2nd 2018 @ 4:17pm | ! Report

            Yeah Muzzo, dunno mate, discipline was shocking on Saturday, effort is there but lacking cohesion at the moment, the next few weeks look like hard work.

            • July 2nd 2018 @ 5:04pm
              Muzzo said | July 2nd 2018 @ 5:04pm | ! Report

              Hey Digger, I see Conrad Smith, is taking to coaching, & I reckon he’ll go OK, too mate. Not sure where he will be locating himself but I’ll be following his venture into that part of the game. On the other hand I hear Ma’a, could be signing up with the Canes, again next year, so we’ll see how that pans out as well. Cheers.

              • July 4th 2018 @ 7:06am
                Bakkies said | July 4th 2018 @ 7:06am | ! Report

                Smith is coaching at Pau.

    • July 2nd 2018 @ 8:33am
      Daveski said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:33am | ! Report

      Ben Skeen makes me want to tear my hair out and there’s clearly issues around consistency, selective replays by the home broadcaster, how many phases back does the TMO go before we say “let’s leave that for Monday” and of course the number of replays often needed and thus game momentum delayed for both possible foul play and try decisions.

      But, this article almost makes me feel ashamed in how sensible and well argued it is! Great read, Geoff.

      • Columnist

        July 2nd 2018 @ 9:10am
        Geoff Parkes said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:10am | ! Report

        It’s been a little bit lost in the debate too Daveski, that whatever law clarifications are decided upon (or not), referees and TMO’s are still individuals, with different capabilities, who apply their own subjective interpretations.

        Egon Seconds for example took us for a trip through the past on Friday night, putting the law-book away and allowing a free for all at the breakdown. And some TMO’s keep a low profile, only getting involved on request, while others like Skeen seem to like to get more involved with the game.

        And NZ fans will recall setting their watch by the regularity with which Stuart Dickinson would intervene from the touchline.

        This is covered in the 3rd point in the final section – it is essentially remains an ongoing training and monitoring issue for the refereeing fraternity.

        It’s also a reason why the NRL uses a central ‘bunker’. Instead of having Super Rugby’s seven different TMO’s over the weekend, they can achieve far greater consistency by concentrating all their TMO ‘talent’ into one tight unit.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:18am
          Bakkies said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:18am | ! Report

          Geoff a Bunker won’t work in Super Rugby due to the time zone differences. Rugby also has the issue of the ball being buried under rucks and mauls which League doesn’t have to deal with.

          • Roar Rookie

            July 2nd 2018 @ 10:28am
            Dave_S said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:28am | ! Report

            Agree, the NRL deserves kudos for improving its ‘TMO’ decision times, but they tend to be a lot easier to adjudicate than in rugby due to the fewer bodies involved.

          • Columnist

            July 2nd 2018 @ 10:44am
            Geoff Parkes said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:44am | ! Report

            Not sure what time zones have to do with it Bakkies?
            You can still watch a match in real time, no matter where you are.

            • Roar Pro

              July 2nd 2018 @ 11:23am
              Bakkies said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:23am | ! Report

              ‘Not sure what time zones have to do with it Bakkies?’

              Think about it Geoff. How can you have a Bunker which costs over a million dollars to set up based in Sydney when games are on in South Africa at 2am in the morning? Ben Skeen adjudicating matches when he is half asleep at 2am no thanks.

              • Columnist

                July 2nd 2018 @ 12:04pm
                Geoff Parkes said | July 2nd 2018 @ 12:04pm | ! Report

                Not sure that’s a real impediment Bakkies.
                Plenty of people in all sorts of occupations work at 2am.

                Also, I have it on good authority that young people these days don’t even go out to discos until 2am.

                Except perhaps in lockout city Sydney 🙂

              • Roar Pro

                July 2nd 2018 @ 12:27pm
                Bakkies said | July 2nd 2018 @ 12:27pm | ! Report

                ‘Not sure that’s a real impediment Bakkies.’

                Geoff they are bad enough before 10pm there is no going to be no improvement when they are working from 2am onwards.

              • July 2nd 2018 @ 6:40pm
                Baz said | July 2nd 2018 @ 6:40pm | ! Report

                @Geoff – Disco’s? Now I know that is simply not right!

              • Columnist

                July 2nd 2018 @ 8:34pm
                Geoff Parkes said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:34pm | ! Report

                What’s that Baz… are you saying that young people don’t go out to the disco any more?

              • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:51pm
                Baz said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:51pm | ! Report

                Mate, I think the term they use now is ‘clubbing’, but don’t quote me 😉

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:35am
          Jacko said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:35am | ! Report

          Geoff Im a lot confused as to why you believe the Bunker works well. I watched a replay of the Warriors -Sharks game on friday night and the last try was being looked and looked at as to whether the player had gone into touch and almost every time they checked it they showed a clear forward pass in the lead-up which they werent allowed to rule on…..Replaying a forward pass…the last pass of the try…..many times but then having the try awarded was difficult to believe that the BUNKER was working well at all…this try decided who got the choclates meaning the wrong team was given the 2 points for the WIN. I dont watch league live anymore as the reffing is absolutely shocking and far more inconsistant than Union

          • Columnist

            July 2nd 2018 @ 10:51am
            Geoff Parkes said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:51am | ! Report

            A couple of points there Jacko.

            – the outrage merchants who say that rugby is ruined because of officiating never acknowledge that ALL other sports have the same issues and levels of conflict and discontent.

            – I’m not suggesting the NRL bunker is perfect. But consider how Ben O’Keeffe struggled to communicate with his TMO on Saturday night in Singapore. His frustration was clear.

            If referees were able to work with the same TMO’s more regularly, this would clearly lead to better understanding and communication, and better and faster decisions.

            With NRL, setting aside other refereeing issues and complaints, it is obvious that the refs and bunker work closely as a team. With rugby, it more often seems that the referee and tMO are total strangers, who haven’t quite figured out how to deal with each other.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:57am
          moa said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:57am | ! Report

          I’d be keen to see Skeens and Ayoub in a bunker……one with a huge padlock on the door.

          • Roar Pro

            July 2nd 2018 @ 11:24am
            Bakkies said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:24am | ! Report

            ‘Skeen and Ayoub ‘

            Filming Rugby’s version of ‘Dumb and Dumber.’

            • Roar Pro

              July 2nd 2018 @ 11:34am
              Bakkies said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:34am | ! Report

              Throw in Veldsman as the Director.

              • July 2nd 2018 @ 12:34pm
                JP said | July 2nd 2018 @ 12:34pm | ! Report

                The 3 stooges !!!

              • Roar Pro

                July 3rd 2018 @ 8:09am
                Bakkies said | July 3rd 2018 @ 8:09am | ! Report

                Yeah worse than Windsor, Oakshott and Wilkie.

      • July 2nd 2018 @ 9:32am
        ClarkeG said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:32am | ! Report

        Yes our Mr Skeen is an interesting character – or not interesting – depending on your point of view.

        Of course if we give someone a job its often the case that person will find reason to justify their existence in said job especially if they are given a loose rein.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:50am
          Old Bugger said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:50am | ! Report

          I dunno about a loose rein CG but he definitely believes, his fingers are tempered by a rubber-band hence, he can push whatever button is close-by…….button pushing seems to be his primary focus.

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 9:15pm
            ClarkeG said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:15pm | ! Report

            By loose rein I really meant the TMO process is general rather than Skeen specifically.

    • July 2nd 2018 @ 8:34am
      bigbaz said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:34am | ! Report

      Good article, I still think though that the lifter has a significant role in this and know that one man lifting 100kgs above his head has very little control wether there is contact or not. Having said that undoubtedly neither jumper can handle the other, just like a lineout.
      The problem is that in my opinion, the TMOs intervention on what seems to be every try and the inevitable eroding of the refs authority. It seemed to me that after 8 scrum penalties against the blues the ref was waiting for the he TMO as to what to do. 8 scrum penalties before a yellow, and you wonder why the fans get frustrated and have no faith in the authorities.

      • Columnist

        July 2nd 2018 @ 9:14am
        Geoff Parkes said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:14am | ! Report

        Tbh bigbaz, I think the issue on Friday night was that the referee was a bit out of his depth at this level.
        He seemed very unsure of himself, never got control of the scrums, and was very inconsistent at the breakdown.

        In general I think we’re very well served by the standard of referees. But they’re not all at the same level.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 11:14am
          Old Bugger said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:14am | ! Report

          Funny thing is GP, I watched Seconds referee the U-20 RWC final between France and England and I thought he did exceptionally well. So, to see him struggle in this virtual bottom-of-the-table clash was mind-boggling, to say the least.

          I hope he doesn’t lose any confidence in that Blues-Reds clash because I really was impressed, with his control of that Juniors final.

          • Columnist

            July 2nd 2018 @ 12:07pm
            Geoff Parkes said | July 2nd 2018 @ 12:07pm | ! Report

            Yes that’s a good point OB. Which makes his tentative performance in this match all the more mystifying. Let’s hope he was just having an off day.

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 3:36pm
            Objective said | July 2nd 2018 @ 3:36pm | ! Report

            Good observation, OB. Whilst the level of Rugby at the U20s is pretty damn good, it is somewhat sanitised compared with SR. That’s where some refs get found out, because SR provides a different set of challenges, and a different kind of pressure.

      • July 2nd 2018 @ 9:42am
        ClarkeG said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:42am | ! Report

        “very little control” – if that was the case then I doubt it would ever be attempted.

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:02am
          bigbaz said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:02am | ! Report

          make that should ever and you would be correct

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 11:08am
            ClarkeG said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:08am | ! Report

            The point being of course is the players clearly think they have a far higher degree of control than you think they have Baz.

            • Roar Guru

              July 2nd 2018 @ 11:52am
              PeterK said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:52am | ! Report

              they have control enough to lift him and get the ball but very little in supporting him if a contest happens and getting him down safely.

              Even with no contest the lifted player often tilts backwards over the lifter.

              • Roar Rookie

                July 2nd 2018 @ 4:49pm
                piru said | July 2nd 2018 @ 4:49pm | ! Report

                Given that it’s illegal to take the player in the air you can see why they take their chances can’t you?

              • July 3rd 2018 @ 1:43pm
                soapit said | July 3rd 2018 @ 1:43pm | ! Report

                its not illegal to make contact in the air so is it worth the chance?

                also given you can get very seriously hurt from a very minor mistake by the opposition is it worth the chance?

    • Roar Pro

      July 2nd 2018 @ 8:37am
      Rower who wishes he could play rugby. said | July 2nd 2018 @ 8:37am | ! Report

      Great article. Just imagine how much better rugby could get by getting rid of the Super Rugby conference system and getting an international season!

      • Columnist

        July 2nd 2018 @ 9:18am
        Geoff Parkes said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:18am | ! Report

        Interesting to see Keiran Read in the press today Rower, pushing for abolishing the conference system!

        • July 2nd 2018 @ 9:33am
          Ed said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:33am | ! Report


          In your travels, which nation/s pushed for more derbies in the SR revamp? Was it just us Aussies? I could not see NZ or SA wanting to have more local games.

          I would prefer a straight round robin as the current format gives a top side in a weaker conference a leg up in accumulating “easier points” in the competition.

          • Columnist

            July 2nd 2018 @ 9:46am
            Geoff Parkes said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:46am | ! Report

            That’s correct Ed, Australia has always been the market that has struggled to accept playing regular matches in South Africa. Whereas NZ and SA as a rule, enjoy this aspect much more.

            The argument against conferences in NZ is framed differently – the local derbies are so intense and hard fought, it’s more a ‘wear and tear’ issue, players happy to limit these contests to one match per season each, instead of two. It’s a strong argument.

            The general fan argument against conferences is more an understanding and familiarity thing, around the type of ‘unfairness’ issues you mention. Personally I think this is overblown, all major US sports use conferences without difficulty, and given the huge distances and travel demands in Super Rugby, a conference system makes good economic and practical sense.

            • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:24am
              Bakkies said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:24am | ! Report

              The declyne of Super Rugby started when the RA formerly known as the ARU pushed for duplicated derbies and bringing in an uncompetitive import laden Rebels side. Maybe you could ask the NZRU Geoff why didn’t they use their right to veto back then to say to the ARU you can’t bring in an extra side as you don’t have the money and the players to field a fifth side so it will drag down the competiveness of the competition.

              • July 2nd 2018 @ 4:26pm
                zhenry said | July 2nd 2018 @ 4:26pm | ! Report

                Spot on Bakkies:
                You won’t agree with my politics, but it’s a combination of the AU owned NZ media pushing for the extra team and the gutless NZRU and Tew not asserting their right and inability to see the consequences of not vetoing.
                Conservative NZ govts especially are used to lying down and encouraging US govts to walk all over them: A very destructive influence for other NZers incl NZRU.

              • July 3rd 2018 @ 6:59am
                Bakkies said | July 3rd 2018 @ 6:59am | ! Report

                I wouldn’t expect anything less from you Cameron.

                Zhenry spot on for years the NZRU told the RA you won’t get a fourth side without depth and a domestic competition to develop it. The RA had neither for a fifth side nor the money to bankroll it. The world’s greatest sporting administrator brought in a private ownership model which led to the RA sending non budgeted money down to Melbourne and eventually taking control when the owners bailed.

                The Rebels, the biggest mistake in Australian Rugby history. The NZRU fell for O’Neill’s promise of more revenue which the rest of Australian Rugby still hasn’t benefited from.

                As for NZRU they saw their All Black trial comp reward mediocrity with inflated ladder positions and low quality fixtures.

              • Roar Guru

                July 2nd 2018 @ 4:39pm
                Train Without A Station said | July 2nd 2018 @ 4:39pm | ! Report

                Nah it didn’t.

                It started when the Force was brought in. In fact it may have even started before then.

                You just pick a point in time being the cause, and ignore that crowds were declining before that.

                Year/ Aggregate/ Average
                2006/ 624,443/ 24,017
                2007/ 530,818/ 21,233
                2008/ 474,273/ 20,621
                2009/ 504,198/ 19,392
                2010/ 518,255/ 19,933
                2011/ 419,613/ 19,073

                But yeah. The decline started in 2011…

              • Roar Guru

                July 2nd 2018 @ 4:40pm
                Train Without A Station said | July 2nd 2018 @ 4:40pm | ! Report

                Just another complete, blatant lie from Bakkies.

              • July 3rd 2018 @ 7:53am
                concerned supporter said | July 3rd 2018 @ 7:53am | ! Report

                TWAS, you said,
                ”Just another complete, blatant lie from Bakkies.”

                TWAS, as I have said before, you are the King of misleading and deceptive statements, together with your associate Cameron Clyne.

                Is Bakkies being investigated by ASIC like Cameron Clyne?

                What an embarrassment is Cameron Clyne to followers of Rugby in Australia?

                WA Liberal Senator Linda Reynolds is calling on the Australian Securities and Investments Commission to launch an investigation into transactions involving the Melbourne Rebels’ licence.

                Senator Reynolds wrote to ASIC after media reports uncovered information regarding the transactions that directly contradicted evidence Rugby Australia, formerly Australian Rugby Union, gave to the Senate Inquiry into the Future of Rugby Union in Australia.

                “Rugby Australia Chairman Cameron Clyne told the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs on October 16 that there ‘was a very real option that both teams were being considered right through until August,’” Senator Reynolds said.

                “However, according to media reports published this week Rugby Australia had direct involvement in negotiating the ‘put option’ between Imperium Sports Management and Victorian Rugby Union as evidenced in an email dated 11 July 2017. It was this ‘put option’ that prevented Rugby Australia from axing the Rebels, leaving just the Western Force.”

                The committee tabled its report into the Future of Rugby Union in Australia on November 15. The report included recommendations for ASIC to consider the evidence provided to the committee, and to examine whether Rugby Australia’s Board’s conduct and the evidence provided to the committee, in particular, the financial circumstances reported in its annual reports, suggest any breaches of fiduciary duties or any other breaches of the Corporations Act 2001.

              • July 2nd 2018 @ 6:29pm
                Jacko said | July 2nd 2018 @ 6:29pm | ! Report

                Zhenry you dont know your NZ Govt history very well. I well remember the French bombing the Rainbow warrior because of its influences in getting information out to the world as to what was happening at “The Atoll” and I well remember NZ govt say NO to any US ship which possibably was nuclear powered or armed.

              • Roar Guru

                July 3rd 2018 @ 1:04pm
                Train Without A Station said | July 3rd 2018 @ 1:04pm | ! Report

                Another lie from Bakkies.

                The Rebels brough the ARU an additional $5M in TV Revenue per year.

                JON set up a woeful private ownership model where the owner was able to just walk away and hand back control to the ARU essentially.

                But doesn’t change the fact that interest had be in decline for years and the Rebels giving the ARU additional funds helped pay for themselves.

              • July 3rd 2018 @ 3:29pm
                Bakkies said | July 3rd 2018 @ 3:29pm | ! Report

                The Rabble paid for themselves? That’s the funniest thing I have read all day.

              • July 4th 2018 @ 7:43am
                concerned supporter said | July 4th 2018 @ 7:43am | ! Report

                Bakkies, our friend TWAS would say relation to RA/Rebels.

                Perhaps he should give evidence to Senator Reynolds and ASIC.

                Yes, I know ASIC is a toothless tiger. Normally they are there to protect the big end of town, not punish them

              • Roar Guru

                July 4th 2018 @ 4:42pm
                Train Without A Station said | July 4th 2018 @ 4:42pm | ! Report

                And concerned supporter you’d defend anything Bakkies says without any independent thought of your own.

        • Roar Guru

          July 2nd 2018 @ 9:41am
          Train Without A Station said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:41am | ! Report

          Bet he’ll be the first to complain about 5 week tours too…

          • Roar Rookie

            July 2nd 2018 @ 10:30am
            Dave_S said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:30am | ! Report

            🙂 yep I wouldn’t want to be on the wrong side of 30 and spending 5 weeks in hotels and planes trying to get over a back strain

          • July 2nd 2018 @ 10:47am
            Jacko said | July 2nd 2018 @ 10:47am | ! Report

            He wont be doing 5 week tours tho TWAS…..Who “TOURS” Aus from NZ…..They fly in…play…fly home…Same with if they play the Sunwolves….Only SA and Arg need a tour and they would play 3 teams AWAY at most……Different for SA teams tho…they would do all OS games in 1 tour…perhaps

            • Roar Guru

              July 2nd 2018 @ 11:10am
              Train Without A Station said | July 2nd 2018 @ 11:10am | ! Report

              Hurts TV Ratings too much though.

              You’d need to be averaging 10k more to games or something to be better off.

    • Roar Guru

      July 2nd 2018 @ 9:04am
      Harry Jones said | July 2nd 2018 @ 9:04am | ! Report

      ‘Quigley’ or ‘quig:’

      A noun or verb. From Middle Latin. A vulgarism.

      To quig, meaning to elevate instant feelings of outrage to stratospheric levels, devoid of context or moderation, and to feed off such infantile ecstatic moods by uttering and publishing calumny and doom against all in any institution or establishment against which the critic rages, whilst guzzling a keg of ale.

      • July 3rd 2018 @ 5:41pm
        Just Nuisance said | July 3rd 2018 @ 5:41pm | ! Report

        I want one of those quig things.