Laws that promote negative play make a lot of coaches want to throw rugby’s rulemakers under the deck of a scrummage machine.
I am not talking about the laws that stop good, aggressive defence or the laws that hold attackers back from having an unfair advantage. I am talking about those laws that strangle an opportunity to attack before it has even started.
The quick line-out is a wonderful way of initiating a dynamic attack. The defence is not usually perfectly organised and you can launch some of your most explosive runners. So why oh why are players allowed to stop a quick throw when they would have been offside if the ball had stayed in play. Say Will Genia is under pressure and kicks the ball out on the full from inside his own 22. The New Zealand full back wants to take a quick throw to get the back three moving, but some layabout who has become stuck in centre field can get in the way.
I don’t see the sense in that. It means an ‘inactive’ player can impede exciting rugby. It stresses the negative over the positive. It seems archaic and against the spirit of the game. Why not maintain the integrity of the offside line when a team is attempting a quick throw-in.
The other thing that bugs me is defensive players who are allowed to linger a yard or two in front of the back foot of a ruck or maul. This may be Freudian, I may still be haunted in my dreams by images of Frenchmen making their goalline stand against the All Blacks in 2007. But there is no doubt that this area of the game is not refereed with enough vigour.
In the recent Super 15 we have seen how expert both the Waratahs and the Stormers are at pushing up this offside line. It almost forces the attacking side into trying to elongate the ruck in order to create more space. I would like a lot more emphasis from the assistant referees on policing this area. One of the reasons for so many mistakes in the Super 15 final was the lack of rigour over the offside line. I think it was well into the second half before an offside penalty was given. There were certainly very few in the match. Such leniency allows defences to lurk a yard or two offside and closes the space for the attacking side.
We must be more vigilant. The law is already there but it needs to be enforced more consistently. Apply the law and it’s a win win situation for both players and crowds.