Eight-point tries and the introduction of a rugby league-style interchange will be discussed next month when the International Rugby Board holds a global think tank.
Wayne Smith writes in The Australian that the May 13-14 conference, which will bring together 80 of the best thinkers in rugby, is the first of its kind since the Working Assembly of October 2007, best remembered for what it failed to achieve – a global season and a worldwide trial of the experimental law variations.
However, since then, there have been a number of significant developments, that have driven home to the IRB the truth of Australian Rugby Union chief John O’Neill’s warning this year: “We’re in the mass entertainment business.”
Australia, which will be represented at the assembly by O’Neill, ARU chairman Peter McGrath, high-performance manager David Nucifora and community rugby specialist Ian Alker, is expected to prioritise making the game attractive and ensuring it gets full value from inbound Tests.
Indications are that from 2012, the custom of two northern hemisphere sides touring Australia to play no more than two Tests will give way to a back-to-the-future format in which one nation – in that year Wales – will play a three-Test series.
And because the Super 15 will be in recess for the three-week Test window in June, there will be an opportunity for Australia’s provincial sides to play midweek matches against the tourists
Although there is no set agenda for the meeting, the issue of how rugby can best leverage the introduction of the sevens form of the game to the Olympic program from 2016 is certain to be discussed. But so, too, is the increasingly precarious financial position of teams around the world.
The Queensland Reds are effectively in the hands of an administrator, while estimates suggest English professional clubs are operating at a collective debt of $42 million.
That issue will most likely trigger a discussion of whether players’ salaries can be capped or reined in.
At present the disparity between pay in Britain/Europe/Japan and Australia/New Zealand is resulting in a massive player drain to the northern hemisphere.
Once, only those at the golden handshake stages of their careers were prepared to make the move, now much younger players – such as Toulon-bound All Black prop Carl Hayman – are putting money ahead of even World Cup selection.
Another part of the game which may be up for discussion is the value of tries, with the UK press speculating the value of tries may be increased after next year’s World Cup in New Zealand. However past experience has demonstrated that raising the number of points on offer for a try has the unintended effect of increasing penalties.
Similarly, there is a cause-and-effect issue to be evaluated before rugby moves to a league-style interchange. Rugby promotes itself as a game for all shapes and sizes but if bigger players are able to take periodic breathers on the sideline, it may lessen the impact of smaller, nimbler players.
And while the suggestion to ban shots at penalty goal taken from within the kicker’s own half undoubtedly would reduce annoying time-wasting, it would also rob the game of the “wow factor” provided by a Francois Steyn 65m monster.Tweet