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To have possession or not

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To have possession or not Empty To have possession or not

Post by Old Man Wed 08 Nov 2023, 7:15 pm

Understandably there has again been much criticism about the 2023 RWC aimed at South Africa (and England for their semi final tactics) but poorly disguised as being aimed at World Rugby.

It would be wise to categorise the various criticisms under different categories.

Time management and ball in play.
World Rugby has been aiming to increase ball in play time to around 40 minutes with many games still sitting in the low 30's and some matches reaching close to the magical 40 minutes, but rarely exceeding it.

There are teo major factors conributing to it, teams and geberal game management by officials. As I understand it the bunker system used during the RWC was implemented mainly to limit the time stoppages for TMO reviews sothat the bunker can review footage whilst the referee allows play to continue.

Once a play or incident has been picked up bu the TMO, it would then be referred to the referee to make quick judgement so play can continue once again.

Quite a bit has been debated on the influence the bunker system has on the outcome of incidents and how far back the laws allow for play to be revisited.

Inconsistencies have resulted in heated debates on a number of occasions. My solution, either remove the TMO and bunker system completely, or allow the Bunker system to fully adjudicate on certain elements of the game. As an example when a try is scored. Currently a try can only (or is supposed) be reviewed two phases back. Why only two phases?

Whether a try has a lead up via two phases or 14 phases, once a team has turned over possesion, started playing from a set piece or an intercept. That whole sequence of play is relevant to the try being scored. If you don't want the whole sequence to be reviewed regardless of the phases, then don't review it at all.

Waterboys, carnival treats or whatever it may be. They should not be allowed onto the field of play under aby circumstances. Medical staff can only enter the field on the behest of the match referee. We survived with oranges at half time for decades, there should be no need for refreshments during the half.

Time management on set piece should be dealt with in the same manner as the shotclock for goal kicking. In all honesty, 1 minute in my view is too long. Looking back at past kickers of the eighties (Naas Botha) he never took a minute to kick at goal and he was one of the most prolific goal kickers of his time.

The reality is, scrums, goal kicks and lineouts are the major detractors of ball in play time. Whilst the waterboys, popcorn salesmen and "fake injuries" are frustrating in the sense that it creates a lull in the game, the clock will usually be stopped at that point, so not much of that has a bearing on the ball in play time.

The laws, interpretation of them and inconsistencies.

I want to deal with the interpretation of laws first. As suggested above there are two options, either keep the TMO, or remove him, either will work for me.

The fact is that if you put 20 referees in a room, provide them with footage of a ruck, you will get 35 diffrent ruling (Tappe Henning when he trained referees in South Africa confired this). Many years ago speaking to a referee at a Transvaal match I had a chat to the refree after the match and he explained to me that a referee goes into a match focusing on only a few issues at the breakdown, entry into the ruck via the gate, staying on your feet. It is impossible for them to watch for a dozen indiscretion from to teams at any given ruck.

That tells me, either World rugby simplifies the laws to a point where it is manageable for one referee to be more accurate, or we all accept human errors is part and parcle of the game.

This goes for any other facet of play.

The laws.
I have read numerous reports, articles, blogs etc. Over the past week that possession rugby is on a life line, dead or almost dead. Prior to the RWC final there were pundits and the like suggesting that for the good of rugby NZ should win the RWC as if SA were to win the Rugby World Cup, it would spell the death of rugby.

Apparently the popular narrative is the laws are currently favouring the team without the ball.while this may be the dominant perception out there, I believe it has been influenced by the narrative that running rugby is what teams such as New Zealand and Ireland play, THE GOOD and what South Africa and England play, THE BAD.

This narrative has been perpetuated in the media and amongst pundits for quite some time.

Obviously after a world cup loss, much of this narrative is due to envy, denial, disappointment and pure salty nehaviour.

England recieved praise and criticism for the manner in which they played the semi final, kicking away 93% of their possession, and according to one pundit only ran the ball after the Springboks went into the lead after the 78th minute. Whether that is true I cannot confirm.

What I can confirm is that whilst it was frustrating to watch, it was incredibly effective and the Springboks had no answer for it.

Likewise the Springboks are criticised tor the number of tackles they made in the final and the fact that NZ made double the runs they did. All of a sudden the periods in the final where the Boks went over the nZ tryline being held up or tackled out in the corner has been forgotten..

Now this is where my plea starts. I would like someone to provide the necessary relevant statistics, on the entire RWC regarding the stats that will prove whether this narrative that possession rugby is dead is founded in reality.

What are the actual statistics in reagrds to.

Penalties awarded to attacking rucks vs defensive rucks? This will tell us whtether the laws are biased towards the defensive team.

Turnover statistics? Knock ons and forward passes vs turnover at the breakdown? What is the percentage of possession lost by the attacking team is due to player skill vs defensive contesting for the ball.

Kicking, a full breakdown of types of kicks and their success rate? Instead of criticising a team that kicks a lot (NZ is also a team that kicks a lot) what are the purposes and outcomes of kicks during the RWC.

Phase play and tries scored? Would like to know how many tries were scored of first phase, how many first phases (would likely be off set piece) then how many two phase plays and number of tries etc. The success of phase play and how many phases are most effective will indicate success and failure due to errors, or defensive turnovers.

The pont I am trying to make, if we belive possession rugby is struggling, it can be down to defensive accuracy and physicality as much as anything else.

It would be very informative to actually base these opinions on fact rather than narrative.

Old Man

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Post by Geordie Thu 09 Nov 2023, 8:27 am

Rugby is a game of all different styles ....people just need to get over it.

SA know how to play world cup wining rugby. Good on them. Bet most fans wouldnt be complaining if their team won so often...


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Post by lostinwales Thu 09 Nov 2023, 9:25 am

Also it is hard to make a game work relying on just one tactic. South Africa is a good example because they don't run the ball much, but they definitely can when they want to. The frustration with England is that they didn't have an alternative to the kicking against the toughest opposition.


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Post by Tramptastic Thu 09 Nov 2023, 11:02 am

Yeh, what matters to fans is that the game is entertaining. There's this idea that because the boks play a territory/pressure game they are dull to watch. Thats ludicrous. Their physicality in defence is awesome, the speed they inject into the game via defence is amazing to watch and when the game opens up after all that pressure - holy moly can SA put the ball through the hands/boot in to space (I still watch that no look kick from Libbok against Scotland and smile).

Rugby has the capacity to be ludicrously entertaining to watch. It also has the potential to be the worst sport imaginable when its bad. England v Argentina in the pool stages was arguably the worst match of the year if not the decade. England v Argentina in the bronze medal match was far more entertaining. See also SA vs Ireland or SA vs France. Both amazing matches to watch, 3 teams with totally different identities and approaches to the game, both excellent matches. its all about willingness to create opportunities and the ability to execute skills under pressure: Eng v Arg Pool game was a total failure by Arg to do anything right and Eng playstyle creating very narrow opportunities.


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Post by lostinwales Thu 09 Nov 2023, 2:11 pm

As an England fan I enjoyed the psychological aspects of the England Argentina pool game very much. It was a masterclass in how to win in adversity. It isn't a game I need to see again


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Post by dummy_half Fri 10 Nov 2023, 9:14 am

Matches played at high intensity are great to watch, even if they don't result in much free-flowing attacking rugby. The England v SA semi final was a classic of its type, especially as a bad conditions game, while the quarter finals were epic across a range of styles of play.

Ball in play time is mainly just about ensuring the game keeps moving. For example, the refs hurrying players into the line outs rather than allowing a huddle first to discuss who was getting the first round at the bar... The scrum set up still needs work, to make of a faster and more effective process and to make scrums back to being a physical competition not simply a case of who can con the ref best.

I made a comment elsewhere that rugby will never be a game of perfect officiating (too many instances where both sides are technically committing an offence at the same time), but the way the TMO was operating seemed to be trying to do that. This led to quite a few instances of play being called back multiple phases for relatively small incidents. For me, the TMO should be restricted to adjudicating scoring plays, reviewing incidents the ref refers them to and identifying instances of serious foul play (yellow or red cards), not trying to determine if there was a knock on or forward pass in general play.


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