Can someone please tell me why there is a maximum pitch size but no minimum size. In recent years both the Osprey and Wasps have played blitz defences on small pitches and reduced rugby to a hit-athon.
IRB regulation 1.2a reads that the pitch of play shall not “exceed 100 metres in length and 70 metres in width.” But there is no minimum requirement apart from a woolly caveat that the dimensions of the playing area should be as near as possible to those defined.
Now once upon a time all of this might have made sense. In the days of slower, less fit players and a heavy rugby ball, 7000 square metres would have seemed to be in the right ball park. But in the professional age the pitch has become smaller and smaller.
I understand that the IRB is reluctant to make a minimum pitch size because of the constraints on playing fields in amateur rugby. But I would like to see something done about the pitches in professional rugby. We are after all in the entertainment business and anything that improves the spectacle must be a good thing.
We have seen the game open up on ‘bigger’ pitches like Twickenham and Murrayfield. When the Reds play in Brisbane they are able to use the full width of their international pitch. Imagine if we gave the likes of Quade Cooper and Will Genia even more space to move the ball around in.
The game is 150 years old and players are now a different shape to their 19th century predecessors. Let’s be expansive. Let’s insist on minimum pitch dimensions at the professional level to stop the rugby stranglers and let’s do away with the maximum or at least increase the width of the pitch.
I want to see what Quade Cooper and Dan Carter and Kurtley Beale and Brian O’Driscoll might achieve if we gave them more room to play in. And I imagine the spectators will feel much the same way.
There might even be other benefits like fewer injuries. Instead of all the impact tackles as players are taught to carry the ball into contact, coaches will encourage their team to look for the space. We might even reduce the amount of tackles in a match. Rugby is the best sport to watch when played well. A wider pitch will open up a world of possibilities.