It was pleasing to read today that SANZAR referees boss Lyndon Bray promised a return to last year’s interpretation of breakdown rules that favor the attacking side. The rules adopted last year were widely applauded by the public and had been described by Robbie Deans as “close to perfect”. In contrast, the opening rounds of this year’s competition have seen a relative dearth of tries and the outcome of games more regularly determined by penalties.
But Bray’s announcement begs the question: why weren’t last year’s rules applied in the first 3 rounds of this year’s SuperRugby comp? Did the referees just forget about them? Or was a conscious decision made to change them? If so, can someone please explain just who is running the show?
This week’s rugby blogs have included some vigorous debate about improving the laws of the game. However, any contemplation of improvements to the game should not exclude some careful thought regarding the horrific injury rate in professional rugby. The game at the elite level is being played with a much higher level of fitness, intensity, and strength than in the amateur days. The downside of this is that in almost every game we are witnessing serious injuries with potentially life-long repercussions for the player. Rugby involves a lot of unstructured play, and many of these injuries are occurring at the breakdown where limbs are dangling in all directions and players are flying in to the ruck at speed.
Sport is supposed to promote health, not the maiming of those that play it. It’s time to give some careful thought to improving this when tinkering with the rules.