Stats prove rugby rules work

2010-11-11 22:39

Marco Botha

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.


  • andrefvanderberg - 2010-11-12 00:51

    More cold hard facts lead to better decisions which could only help Pieter make the right decisions regarding replacements at the appropriate moments.

  • kevjones777 - 2010-11-12 07:10

    Well the tackle law was not applied on Saturday between England and the All Blacks. The try that was thwarted in the dying minutes of the game at the corner flag is the incident I am referring to. The All Black player clearly did not attempt the tackle the English player and merely shoulder barged him out of play. This according to the law is an illegal tackle. The end result should of been a penalty try under the posts. The question is not what the laws are so much as application of the law. All we want as spectators is consistency. SA players are still disciplined differently time and time again.

      umdloti - 2010-11-12 07:43

      I agree with you completely. Well said.

  • Varknek - 2010-11-12 07:42

    The next step should be to get rid of Paddy O'Brien.

  • Met Uysh! - 2010-11-12 11:10

    This is nonsense. This is comparing to 2009. Remember that in 2009 we had the ELV's and they then tweaked it because of the problems there were, new interprations and the players adjusted to it. They should rather compare the stats to before the ELV's because with the ELV's there were still a lot of issues that was sorted out this year. So perhaps, yes, compared to last year there was a definite improvement, but not as opposed to before they moved to the ELV's IMO, especially re penalties.

      WernerBeytel - 2010-11-12 12:38

      Spot on! I cannot believe the scrummage reset stats especially. If this past weekend's rugby was any indicator whatsoever, scrum resets have doubled at the very least.

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