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Why Twiggy's rules risk alienating fans

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Roar Guru
22nd November, 2018
28

I support almost everything that Twiggy is trying to do, but while this competition offers itself as the perfect place to try new things – a variant of the same old rugby, no offence – on this occasion he’s missed the mark by a long shot.

The whole scheme is smart – tapping into a rugby-mad Pacific market while venturing into previously unknown-to-rugby parts of Asia and harnessing the disdain for Rugby Australia and the appetite for top-level rugby in the west.

With players, or should that be legends, like Dan Carter and Matt Giteau, the potential is there.

I even like the idea of going radical. But geez, mate, you’re a long way off the mark.

The law changes are as follows.

Time differences

  • 35-minute halves.
  • After 15 minutes of a red card, a different player is allowed on.
  • Reduced time allowed for kicking at goal and kicking off.

Kicking

  • No kicking out on the full from own 22.
  • Rugby league-style 40/20, with finding touch – after at least one bounce – inside the opposing 22 after kicking from inside your own ten.
  • No marking inside your own 22.
  • No kick needed for power try, which will be worth 9 automatic points.
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Discipline

  • Penalty goal reduced to two points.
  • Defence must be back 10 metres at scrums, as opposed to five.
  • Orange card citing system for match review officials.
  • Teams allowed up to ten ‘rolling subs’.
Twiggy Forrest

(Daniel Carson/Getty Images)

The first one is straightforward, and I’ve got no issue with it. It obviously appeals to the broadcasters, who would like that a game can be over in approximately 90 minutes from kickoff to siren, whereas currently they tend to take around an hour and 45 minutes.

Reducing time for kicking at goal wouldn’t alienate many rugby fans, but actually enforcing it will be key. The 60-second time limit for scrums was never more than a theory in World Series Rugby this year.

With an increase or a perceived increase in red cards over the last couple of seasons, quite a few fans have been calling for World Rugby to allow a replacement on the field after 15 minutes or something similar. I can’t see an abundance of send-offs happening in RR, so let’s hope this never has to happen.

Eliminating kicking directly into touch from your own 22 – in-goals included? – is a step too far. Love it or hate it, clearing kicks have been a part of the game for forever and are an art. Perhaps reduce the 22 to 15 or 10 to make opportunities less frequent.

The ’40/20′ or ’40/22′ reeks of rugby league. Surely a kick from inside your own ten or 40 into the opposing 22 is a pretty routine play in rugby, only to be rewarded with a lineout throw?

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And clarify for me: does he want to encourage kicking into touch or not? Certainly as us on the east coast would know, this rule is taken right out of the NRL rulebook.

I’ve never jumped out of my seat yelling with ecstasy at a mark being taken, so I honestly don’t care that he’s getting rid of them. This one can get a thumbs up.

After just two power tries were scored in this year’s WSR, Andrew Forrest – or whoever is making these decisions – has decided that this was from a lack of motivation and the stakes being too high, not because of a lack of skill that comes from either having not played for almost nine months or being a thrown-together XV.

Add this to two-point penalties, and the benefits from scoring a try are much greater. I can already see teams practising kick-offs that land as close to the 22 as possible without crossing it and subsequently turning the power try ‘on’.

Rugby is a multi-dimensional game, and without clearing into touch or any real kicking at goal outside of conversions threatens to change all that, which is my main issue with two-point penalties.

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Defence being back ten at scrums won’t do much, I’m thinking, but maybe someone who’s more of an expert can clear this up for me.

I’m also undecided on orange cards. If it makes it easier for players to receive the fair treatment rather than getting away with Owen Farrell-level shoulder charges, fine.

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Ten substitutions, up from eight, will only encourage interchanging of players and a boost in footballers who can’t play for long stretches, even though unfit players are exactly what Forrest seems to be against.

We don’t know exactly how much he will change the game of rugby. WSR didn’t flip the game on its head, as many experts on this site have pointed out, so maybe that’s why Twiggy’s team have jumped at this.

We can only wait to see how it pans out, but for the next three months I’m a sceptic.

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