Andrew warns rugby laws killing spectacle

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Rob Andrew today warned the International Rugby Board that spectators are being driven away by laws that are killing the game as a spectacle.

The IRB last night confirmed there would be no rule changes before the 2011 World Cup, despite widespread alarm at regulations governing the ruck and tackle areas.



The Rugby Football Union pressed for an overhaul at the IRB's council interim meeting, blaming the current interpretation for the recent injury crisis and the negative, safety-first tactics that are prevalent.



On average only 2.2 tries were scored per match this autumn, any ambition thwarted by the reality that current laws make it easier to defend than attack.



Andrew, the RFU's director of elite rugby, is worried that the lack of entertainment is already having an impact on supporters.



"I'm very concerned that attendances will start to decline unless changes are made. I think we're seeing it already," he said.



"You just have to talk to people in the game, including some of the coaches who have said they're turning the TV off themselves when they're watching matches.



"There is a concern within the game. Now you're better off without the ball than with it, which isn't what rugby should strive for.



"The risk in keeping the ball hand is too large. There are some fascinating stats from this year's Tri-Nations, showing how little time South Africa had the ball yet they won the tournament.



"In one match against New Zealand they made the lowest number of team passes in any Tri-Nations match ever, yet still won.



"The New Zealand scrum-half made more than that on his own."



The RFU received little support at the IRB meeting as the Tri-Nations teams, who have been worst hit by declining attendances, seized their chance to avenge the rejection of the Experimental Law Variations (ELVs).



And the prospect of forcing change before 2011 is bleak because despite the promise of a review starting next year, alterations between now and 2011 can only be made for safety reasons.



The RFU are locked in an ongoing process of compiling extensive injury data but their figures are a season behind, reducing their chances of succeeding on welfare grounds based on the recent injury spike.



Martyn Thomas, chairman of the RFU's management board, insisted the loyalty of supporters must not be taken for granted.



"We're very lucky in England that we have an amazingly loyal spectator base but you have to accept the trust they've put in," he said.



"We want to make sure they've left saying they've watched a great game of rugby and I'm concerned that's not going to happen.



"We're all in agreement that the spectacle of the game has changed and that's a concern.



"There's data to suggest that spectators are not comfortable with what's going on.



"Hopefully sense will prevail if attendances dive and the spectacle is not what it should be. Clearly the IRB have to look at that."



A special meeting of the Professional Game Board will be held on December 18 to review the first cut of the injury audit figures for last season, which have shown an increase in numbers.



Meanwhile, the RFU today revealed that their controversial purple shirt, worn against Argentina last month, has proved a hit with the public.



Chief executive Francis Baron, who is set to retire in July, said: "Of all the shirts sold over November, 41% were for the purple shirt.



"It's an all-time record, way above the level we normally would expect for the change strip. Normally the change strip would be 15% of sales."



Comments