14 Oct

Here We Go Again – eyes down for the RWC
by Colin Johnston
14 Oct 2006

Well Tri-Nations is out the way, the Northern Hemisphere’s mini-tours to the South a distant memory and we now have the propspect of the Southern Hemisphere sides coming North for some Christmas shopping.

‘Quick aside, sitting watching the English Premiership this evening I think I can safely say that there will be many Christmas cards handed out, all yellow. One ref, Dave Pearson I think his name is, has justed binned 3 back rowers, all for minor misdemeanours but all within sight of the posts and thus, to his mind you go off. Can you imagine that in a test match? Course not, because someone with such a cavalier attitude to sin binning couldn’t possibly have a crack at being a test match ref. Er, not the case. The Wales v All Blacks match will be ref’d by this pillock. Something to look forward to.

Anyway, what are my predictions for the year ahead between now and France ’07?

Starting at the top, geographically, Scotland are looking a bit healthier than they have for many a year and there is a solid chance of three home wins in their 3 match Autumn series. Aussie will be the toughest one but they are there to be beaten. They look solid for the 6N and will lose gallantly in the last 8 of the World Cup.

England are looking hapless. Their coach is constantly undermined by the RFU, players past and present and the press. The players don’t play with any belief, selection policy is erratic and the Premiership’s obsession with signing tired old 3N players for a fortune, is starting to catch up with them. This is of course exacerbated by the fact that England still believe that the Vintage of ’03 is still the way to play the game. Can you believe that England were actually thinking of bringing Woodward back as overall supremo of all things rugby in England? Beggars belief but says it all. mediocre Autumn, and 6N, eventually becoming losing quarter finalists in RWC.

Of the others, Ireland arestanding still, Wales flatter to deceive and France remain the only credible threat to global supremacy from the North. France will have a solid Autumn, win the 6N and be in the RWC final. Can they win it? Only they can say.

For the tourists this Autumn, NZ will show us 3 of their 27 starting combination permutations. Constant tinkering could still backfire on them yet. Presumably the coaches actually have a strong suspicion of the starting line up, they just don’t like to give the rest of us a clue. Should make the final but they have self destructed time and again when it really mattered.

The Aussies? Well no one knows what there team is and I guess we wont find out until next September in France. Semi-finalists in France, maybe but if they don’t get their act together and get the dogged consistency they used to produce they could be a quarter final casualty.

South Africa? They look pretty poor, cynical, one dimensional and back to thuggery. I played golf with Kim Elgie last month, a 74 year old South African that played rugby for Scotland in the 50′s (played centre against Jardine’s touring ABs so he has seen classy backs up close), he couldn’t think of one redeeming feature of the Boks apart from the fact that they have a good skipper. Enough said. Losing quarter finalists.

This Autumn in the North starts the RWC countdown year, the rugby we see between now and the New Year will start to define what happens next year. Could be good, then again we could be snowed under with the yellow cards I mentioned above and wonder why we are bothering to pay for satellite TV to watch rugby at all. What a thought.

3 Oct

Blowing the whistle on the whistle blowers
by Tracey Nelson
3 Oct 2006

A friend recently put forward the comment that the confusion and lack of consistency in rulings at the breakdown is a serious issue, and that someone needs to figure out a workable solution. Not surprisingly, it’s also come up for some discussion after the last Air New Zealand Cup round.
In my opinion there IS a workable solution. Referee the laws the way they are written. Currently, NZ referees are allowing players arriving at the breakdown to go in off their feet and not bind to another player. It is blatantly incorrect, yet they are allowing it to happen. As soon as a player comes in off their feet at a ruck it should be a penalty. Pure and simple.

If they penalised players going off their feet, we would have a lot more clarity at the breakdown. It would be very obvious when the tackler is on his feet and trying to play the ball, and whether or not the tackled player has released the ball immediately or is hanging on to it. At the moment there are too many instances of the tackler being legitimately on his feet and playing the ball, but then being pushed down by opposition players flopping all over him as they try to form a ruck.

A ruck forms when the ball is on the ground and one or more players from each team are on their feet over the ball, and at least one player is in physical contact with an opponent. The key words in the formation of a ruck are “players on their feet”. Apparently those words have mutated in the minds of referees, as it seems that it’s now perfectly legal for players to launch themselves into rucks with no attempt to bind or remain on their feet.

Inconsistent applications of the laws during games are also frustrating for both the players and spectators. One such example could be taken from the Canterbury-Auckland match midway through the second half:

A Canterbury player was tackled, and Devine and Carter arrived almost simultaneously at the breakdown. Devine was on his feet attempting to play ball as Carter tried to bind to him to form a ruck. A further player from each side also arrived a split second later and the ruck was formed just as the referee blew the whistle to award a penalty against the Canterbury player for not releasing the ball in the tackle.

Five minutes later an identical situation arose, with Devine once again the player on his feet attempting to wrestle the ball free just before the ruck formed, but this time he was told to take his hands off it. The two situations were almost indistinguishable, yet the rulings were poles apart as one was deemed a tackle situation yet the second was apparently a ruck despite the players being in exactly the same positions.

Little wonder then that the players (and public) are confused as to what they can and can’t do, when there is so much variation even within a game. Of course, this isn’t just limited to New Zealand, it’s a world-wide problem. Whilst the long-term solution seems to be the tweaking of the laws that are to come into being following the 2007 World Cup, in the meantime it would help if referees were directed to rule correctly to the laws and not allow players to go off their feet at the ruck.