This blog was an easy one to think of as a good discussion point. This weekend’s RBS 6 Nations had a tonne of talking points with one major one that leads us on to creativity and innovation in coaching.
The ploy Italy used against England wasn’t a new one per se but it was a ballsy move by Conor, Brendan and Mike and they are to be applauded not derided for trying it.
I’d have loved to have been in the room listening to their discussions when they first thought of doing it. Those are the type of meetings I love. I’m sure the idea was thrown about, dissected and digested. No yes men in those three coaches and that can create a crucible of thinking to springboard a different approach and cultivate innovation.
The response that it wasn’t rugby revealed a deeper rooted problem in the game. Lack of innovation. Lack of creativity. A reluctance to have chaos in training and games. The promotion of mini car crashes at every ruck and dull rugby.
When I was a young coach at Newbury, Brian Ashton used to come up to coach with me. He was then the England backs coach and he felt if he didn’t keep coaching in between national sessions then he would get rusty. He also wanted to try a few ideas out. Obviously I was all over this. Brian would come up an hour or so before training, have a chat about the session ahead, and then off we would go to coach the side. Afterwards a pint in the bar and a chat about rugby gave me evenings that were a complete delight and education for me.
I was so pleased a world class coach like Brian was reinforcing what I believed too; it’s ok to have chaos and lots of player led decisions in training. Nothing wrong with testing the status quo in how you attack and defend. This sort of disruptive thinking, when you can combine that with a group of coaches, management and players that have a voice and an opinion, can further foster improvements.
So when I read that what the game needs is more rucks then you can imagine I have an opinion on it. A breakdown is called that for a reason. The game is being played more and more on the floor rather than on your feet.
It’s becoming easier and easier to keep ball in attack as size and power in the clear out at the ruck is generally winning the battle. It means that you don’t need to think too much in attack to hold onto position and possession. Now that is boring. So when someone throws something different into the mix we should say thank goodness a different picture is being painted sometimes.
Dynamic mini-mauls, much more variation in the line-out and use of the extra players, deft back row moves, back line formations rather than set moves, players being used in different positions in different scenarios, are all just a few things that would add another dimension to the modern game.
Do the rugby laws need to change?
I also read this morning that there might be a review in the laws around all this. That could just be baloney but what a short-sighted step that would be. If we are going to change anything in law then it needs to fulfil two crucial criteria.
Will the game be better for it?
Will it reduce incidence rate/chance of injury?
It would do neither. The offside line is there to be manipulated with good attack and defence. What was probably the most surprising turn of events on Sunday was that it kept working. Create a quick ruck, have a maul, play around the fringe of the defence, would all have resulted in the defence having to get back onside and give England a retreating defence to attack.
If we are going to look at techniques that should be outlawed then let’s look at those that do make the game worse and do heighten injury risk, namely the body roll, the judo type rolls we see at almost every ruck.
Here there is actually a law that is being broken.
Law 16.3 (a)(b)&(c) are constantly being breached.
Below is World Rugby’s official law definitions:
Law 16.3 -World Rugby Laws (Rucking)
16.3 Rucking. (a) Players in a ruck must endeavour to stay on their feet. Sanction: Penalty kick.
16.3 Rucking. (b) A player must not intentionally fall or kneel in a ruck. This is dangerous play. Sanction: Penalty kick.
16.3 Rucking. (c) A player must not intentionally collapse a ruck. This is dangerous play. Sanction: Penalty kick.
Next time you watch a game see whether anyone does a crocodile/judo/saddle or whatever you want to call these rolls and doesn’t break one of these laws.
This is what needs to change as it can cause injury (that on its own is good enough reason), takes away skill and replaces with force, making the game less imaginative.
Hopefully the discussions around last weekend will lead to more imagination in the game not a lobotomy.