After the terrific World Cup hosting news I was surprised to hear Rugby Australia announce they would target league players for 2027.
What sort of message does that send to juniors already playing rugby?
In 2003 the administration went and got Lote Tuqiri, Wendell Sailor and Mat Rogers and it didn’t win a World Cup. What’s wrong with our system? What are we trying to say to grassroots?
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We have won two World Cups by backing our own talent and it worked.
If players want to play league that’s up to them but why do RA not think what they are doing is good enough?
It is very disappointing when I get around grassroots, people ask me ‘why do Rugby Australia want to get league players?’ I agree and don’t have the answer.
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I also don’t agree with copying league laws and using them in rugby, like they have with the goal line dropout and 50:22.
Why are we trying to cater to another sport and modify our laws?
I still love rugby. We have a great culture with respectful supporters and players who still want to have a beer with each other after a tough game.
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And with the World Cup announcements there is a lot of excitement around which I see wherever I go.
But I believe some simple changes would make the game even better.
Here are some ideas and I would love to hear feedback from rugby people about what they think on my Instagram and Facebook pages.
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One of the laws that needs to be changed quickly is the advantage law. You can get in the other team’s half and get advantage, go on for 30 phases and the ref will go back to where the initial knock on or infringement was.
But if you kick the ball away then the advantage is over so it is a very strange law. Why don’t they make it a bit like basketball – you’ve got three seconds to shoot, if you don’t you lose the ball?
How many phases? I think three phases and then OK, advantage over. It makes the game quicker.
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At the moment the biggest issue in rugby is with tackle technique. Players are being coached to tackle around the chest to stop the offload and are getting into trouble with yellow and red cards.
But the referees need to enjoy the game as much as the players and not look for something in every phase of the game. You watch them saying: ‘oh, can we just go back and check the tackle here?’ Yes I understand it’s dangerous but rugby is a contact sport.
You’re going to find things have happened. A guy has turned his head and collides with another guy. What do you do?
Maybe the emphasis is on the defense coaches to say ‘just tackle a guy around the legs’ like we do with kids. The emphasis at the moment is to try and do a ball and all tackle.
CAPPING THE CAPS
A major change I would make is only having four reserves on your bench.
Once upon a time you were the best 15 in Australia, now it’s the best 23. You might get 40, 60 minutes, you’re not injured but you come off. If you are the best player, you are the best player. Start the game.
Guys go on with one minute to go and get a Test cap. Why would you give a guy one minute? In our day you’d only come off if you’re injured and we only had two reserves.
The only way you’d come off is if the doctor came down and said you’re injured.
So I would only give out a Test cap if you start the game or if you are replacing a legitimately injured player. It should be hard earned, a real honor and you should stay the 80 minutes.
LET THE PLAYERS PLAY
Another change I’d make is no player or coach is allowed to run on the field as a waterboy. You watch a Test now and after three minutes coaches are running on and talking to the players.
The game has just started, they’re professionals and you’ve got someone running on talking to them when they’ve been together all week at training talking about the game.
What’s all that about? The players are there because they’re the best in the country, I don’t think they need to be babysat every step of the way. Let the players make decisions. An ex-international spoke to me and mentioned he was on the board of an England Premiership team. He said he walked down to the box and talked to a coach who said ‘we tried to get 100 messages out to the team in 80 minutes.’
Coaches must understand they don’t play the game. They coach during the week but on game day let the players play.
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BOYS AGAINST MEN
I’m involved with many parts of rugby, including club, and I see a more positive attitude towards the game from players and referees than you get at the pro level.
Maybe that’s because it’s played by players who want to enjoy the game and express themselves. Without club rugby, we will not produce state and Wallabies players so it’s vital that we keep that system going because that’s how you learn, from older guys.
There’s a process and club rugby is the way to go because there’s a lot of knowledge and experience from older players. I would love to see fringe Super Rugby players turning out more often for their clubs.
GOOD LUCK TO THE AUSSIES
It’s great to see three Aussie teams in the Super Rugby quarter finals.
Now the hard work starts in finals football. Good luck to all the teams.
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