Rugby Australia’s brain trust will gather to discuss the state of the game after repeated calls from frustrated coaches to encourage a more free-flowing, compelling product.
RA boss Andy Marinos admitted on Monday “the shape of the game is of primary concern”, particularly in Australia’s crowded market with rival footy codes now in full swing.
“We’ve got to make sure the product that’s out of the field is compelling,” he said.
“It’s not only sitting at the feet of officials, it’s also in how we’re approaching playing the game.
“We’re going to be getting together as a collective and drilling in how we get a better flow and shape to our game.”
It comes after Brumbies coach and Wallabies assistant Dan McKellar joined Queensland Reds opposite Brad Thorn in voicing his frustrations over the stop-start nature of Super Rugby Pacific games.
“Wallabies coach Dave (Rennie) would probably like a little bit more footy being played, I think everyone would as well, players more than anyone,” McKellar said after his side’s loss to the Reds on Saturday.
“Everyone’s got a part to play in making the game a spectacle and more entertaining. Players, coaches, the mindset we take in and the messages we drill in and the officials.
“It’s a complex game and if want to treat it more and more complex … it can be difficult to watch at times.”
Thorn’s cries to just “get on with it” followed a Reds win over the Fijian Drua that featured frequent penalties and drawn-out video reviews of minor infringements.
Meanwhile World Rugby boss Alan Gilpin said the crack-down on high contact, which currently involved a trial for a 20-minute red card, wouldn’t relent.
A focus on safety and avoiding concussions has seen regular red and yellow cards for high contact shown in games on both sides of the Tasman.
“The most important issue for the game is safety … we’re trying to make the game as safe as possible, but at the same time a great spectacle,” Gilpin said.
“We want people to want to watch and play rugby, and kids to be inspired by that … it’s a really tough balance to strike.
“We’re in a complex collision sport where those decisions are being made in fractions of a second.
“We have a lot of sympathy for players … (but) over time you’ll see players and coaches adapt to that.”
A three-year goal to professionalise the Wallaroos has been flagged as Australia firms to host the Women’s Rugby World Cup in 2029.
Australia on Monday was named World Rugby’s preferred host for the event, two years after the men’s edition is set to be contested in the country.
World Rugby will now meet with Rugby Australia (RA) and government representatives this week to progress a hosting model for both events, before a final vote in May in Dublin.
RA boss Andy Marinos said the women’s showpiece event, which will be contested in New Zealand later this year, would be an aspirational one for the country’s would-be rugby talents.
And he said the heightened interest in women’s rugby and women’s sport since the failed bid to host the 2022 Women’s World Cup would allow RA to build a commercial case for enhanced funding of the 15-a-side program.
Currently only two of the five Australian Super W sides receive match payments, while the Wallaroos national side are paid for time in camp and the women’s Australian sevens players are on full-time contracts.
Marinos said better pay conditions for Super W players and the Wallaroos, standardised nationally, were essential and an easy sell given the exploits of Australia’s women’s cricket and rugby sevens teams.
“Their (cricket World Cup) win was just wonderful and you can see that the investment that’s gone into that sport is paying dividends,” he said.
“Much like what we saw with sevens (gold medal at the Rio 2016 Games); we invested and continue to make sure those girls continue to perform.
“These opportunities will allow us to build a more comprehensive commercial following; there’s a purpose and destination ahead of us around the game.
“It’s not like there isn’t an investment (in women’s rugby already), it’s just how we broaden that.”
When pressed on a deadline, Marinos said “we’ve got to work hard towards the 2025 World Cup in England”.
“We won’t be held to a timeline, but it’s a priority,” he said.
“(Paying players) has to be followed by investment in the game.”