Referees will turn their eyes on the attacking team at the breakdown during this year’s Super 14 in a change Hurricanes coach Colin Cooper believes will restore the contest for possession and open up the field.
Toby Robson – The Dominion Post
Super 14 coaches met with referees bosses last December and voiced concerns that there had been too much focus on what defensive players did after the tackle.
While defenders were being penalised with free kicks for all manner of offences, attacking players were getting away with lying or leaning on the tackle area to seal off the ball.
Cooper said that trend was stifling the contest for possession and providing no incentive for defenders to commit to the breakdown.
“They [the referees] used to look at what the tackler was doing, then the first arriving player from the defensive team, but now they are going to be looking at whoever that first arriving player is, and if he comes off his feet he’s going to get pinged.
“In the past the attacking team was getting away with sealing the ball off because the checkpoint was always the defensive team.
“If you seal it off immediately the defence just goes into post tackle mode and forms a picket fence, and to me that’s no good for the game.
“That’s when we get in danger of looking too much like rugby league and becoming a very simple game.”
With attackers and defenders on their feet, winning the physical contest at the tackle would become crucial, Cooper said.
“Now if you seal the ball off as an attacker it will be a free kick. We’ve had to coach our arriving players when we have the ball to stay on their feet. If teams stay on their feet it will encourage defensive players to come into the contact.
“There will be more technique and more emphasis on arriving attacking players to either move the ball quickly or protect the ball.
“What that will do is encourage defence into the contact because it will be a more even contest with the attackers on their feet.
“If that comes through it will be a more exciting game because there will be more turnovers and more players at the contact, which creates more space.”
Cooper has also been pushing for referees to crack down on loose forwards detaching early from the side of the scrum.
“If they stay on the scrum then there is more room for the backs, especially with the extra five metres. At the moment they are just holding on to the scrum with a hand, but are not bound as they should be.”Tweet