Stats prove rugby rules work
André Watson (Gallo Images)
Cape Town – Over the past five years, rugby has been subjected to many experimental rules and rule interpretations, but finally rugby bosses worldwide feel the end goal is in sight.
South African Rugby Union (SARU) refereeing manager André Watson told Sport24 on Thursday he thought 2010 had "seen rugby at its healthiest yet".
He attributed this largely to the stricter application of rules regarding the "Big 5 focus areas", which were identified toward the end of last year by the International Rugby Board (IRB).
The most visible focus areas identified were how tackles and the engagement at scrums are managed by referees.
"This year there was a shift of emphasis in the application of certain rules. As a result, more attractive and better rugby was seen. And the statistics prove it," said Watson.
He referred to:
- A 6% increase in tries
- A 15% decrease in penalty and free kicks
- A 16% decrease in kicks in general play
- A 24% decrease in reset scrums
- A 20% decrease in penalty kicks at rucks developed after tackles
"The last statistic is especially interesting because referees were stricter on defenders and yet they are the ones who are being punished less this year," said Watson.
"On the whole, spectators, players and referees can feel that this kind of rugby is closer to what they want."
At the IRB's high performance meeting in London this week, these points were discussed and "continued consistency" in the worldwide application of the focus areas was emphasised.
The IRB apparently wants to stop different approaches being used by referees from the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
"I have been involved with this international conference for 14 years and have never sensed a determination to blow any differently from the men up North," said Watson.
"Rugby there is played differently, but not refereed differently. The difference in play will mean that their referees are stricter on certain points and less so on others. The rules and the application thereof, however, remain the same."
He believes there has been - with less than a year before the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand - a "decrease in grey areas".
"There will always be grey areas. But this year a highway with five lanes, which represent grey areas, was decreased to two lanes.
Everything isn't 100% but we are already seeing more space and tries. That's after all, what we want," said Watson.