Warren Gatland's arrival as the latest redeemer for Welsh rugby has brought a much-needed surge of excitement to a nation still sore from its World Cup disappointment, but I believe the Welsh Rugby Union have their priorities in the wrong order.
I have no quibble with Gatland's appointment. He is a confident, strong-minded coach who has a very good record of getting results wherever he has been. But I would have liked to have seen more urgency placed on building a better structure for Welsh rugby first of all. Sacking one coach and swiftly putting another in his place is not guaranteed to work, whoever he is.
Wales have been hiring and firing coaches at a bewildering rate for 20 years while neglecting the more basic problem of developing the game from the grass roots upwards. The more urgent appointment was for a director of rugby to take overall charge of the game, just as Rob Andrew is doing in England. Kevin Bowring would have been the ideal choice, but for some reason he didn't fancy the job.
Only when a respected figure of his stature and authority was in place, with a clear brief of what needs to be done, should they have moved to appoint a top coach. Instead, they charged over to New Zealand to interview candidates in a very expensive move that had panic and desperation written all over it.
Now they say they are seeking a director of rugby, but they've got it arse backwards. Whoever they bring in now will need Gatland's approval, and he can hardly be the best judge of what's needed in Wales.
A basic overhaul is urgently required to ensure promising players get the best coaching. The elite performance unit are doing their best but they need more resources, more man-power and a leader with the clout to supervise it all from the top.
I have no doubt that Gatland will bring a new dynamic but he should be adding his weight to a sound structure already in place, not attempting to go it alone, as many of his predecessors have been forced to do.
Meanwhile, the International Rugby Board are attempting what very few top coaches have been able to do: to break the modern game's defensive stranglehold and give us more open, creative play. Last week I was at an IRB presentation of the proposed rule changes that are to be experimented with in the next Super 14 competition in the southern hemisphere, and they look promising.
I certainly approve of making both sets of backs stand five yards behind the scrum. This will give much more room to develop attacking options.
The new rules would allow mauls to be collapsed by tackling above the waist, and I'm sure no one would mind the curtailing of the rolling maul. In the tackle area, if the ball doesn't come back there will be a free-kick to the defending side. And players will be allowed to forage for the ball in the ruck as long as they keep on their feet. There would be no restriction on the number of players contesting a line-out, and it would no longer be possible to pass the ball into the 22 for a kick straight to touch – that might cause a problem if a ball is tapped back into the 22 from a line-out. But it all makes for more open rugby.
I sat next to Keith Wood and we both agreed the suggestions would quicken up the game. The new rules are a lot clearer if you see them demonstrated on video, and I'm sure the ball is going to be alive for longer. Cutting down the number of penalties at the ruck would be very welcome. Games should be won byplayers, not penalty decisions.
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