9 Apr

Heads-up
by Tracey Nelson
9 Apr 2009

Some law interpretations, latest news and thoughts on Sean Fitzpatrick’s comments about the Super 14 competition.

LAW INTERPRETATIONS

There were a few discussions around some rulings after last weekend’s games. In particular there seems to be some confusion over entry through ‘the gate’ at the breakdown, along with what constitutes being held in the tackle. So let’s take a look at ‘the gate’ first.

The Gate
When a tackle occurs, an offside line develops. Any player not involved in the tackle (ie. if you’re not the tackler or the tackled player) must approach the tackle area from behind this imaginery line. Once a ruck has formed, players must enter through ‘the gate’, which is essentially the hindmost foot of the hindmost player from your side bound in the ruck. You can think of the gate a bit like a cattle stock race, players essentially need to draft themselves into the back of the ruck in a straight line running parallel to the sidelines. Joining a tackle situation, ruck or maul from the side is viewed as ‘not entering through the gate’, otherwise known as offside entry. How wide is the gate? Probably the width of two props, if you stop and think about it logically.

Held in the tackle
Plenty of debate around the penalising of Masaga in the Chiefs v Lions game on Saturday night. Was the penalty for playing the ball in the tackle correct?

Yes. Because Masaga was brought fully off his feet (onto his elbows and knees) on the ground, the tackler had hold of his ankles and Masaga’s momentum had been halted. Had Masaga placed the ball on the ground then picked it up again as he regained his feet, he would have been fine. But by not releasing the ball when tackled on the ground and getting up again, he was playing the ball on the ground. The difference with Dwayne Sweeney’s try which was almost the same but he wasn’t penalised, was that Sweeney was never at any stage completely off his feet, he wasn’t held and his momentum was never halted. Therefore he was within his rights to keep holding the ball and playing on.

LATEST NEWS

SKY Televison Ltd have been granted the sole broadcasting rights for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, with all 48 matches to be broadcast in high definition. All matches will be screen on the SKY Sports channels and the Rugby Channel. RWC Ltd will be looking to licence live free-to-air broadcasts in New Zealand for up to 16 games, including the opening match where the All Blacks will play Tonga, and the knock-out matches (quarter-finals and semi-finals).

FITZPATRICK’S VIEWS ON THE SUPER 14

Last weekend former All Black captain Sean Fitzpatrick, now resident in the UK, slammed this year’s Super 14 competition suggesting that from what he had seen in the Super 14 was not as good as what is being played in the Premiership and Heineken Cup.

Of course, this immediately outraged NZ fans who pointed out the current Southern Hemisphere domination of their Northern Hemisphere counterparts in the test match arena, and the current world rankings where England sits at #6.

Pointing out the Chiefs v Blues match, Fitzpatrick said ‘it was probably the worst and most disappointing game of rugby I have seen. If you think that is great, free-flowing rugby to watch, we are obviously watching two different games. That’s not what I see as a great game’.

I have to say I agree with him. Sure it was ‘entertaining’, that’s if you think watching non-existent defence by both sides get ripped up. Great sides do not leak points like a seive, and while many will argue that you just need to have more points than the opposition at the end of 80 minutes, I’d suggest that it’s a lot easier to do that when you’re not letting the opposition score than when you allow them to run in 20+ points against you.

I would also agree with Fitzpatrick that the Super 14 is lacking structure, and too much ‘helter-skelter’ rugby is being played. Add to that some of the woeful kicking in play we’ve seen this year, along with numerous un-forced handling errors, you can’t help but think he’s got a point. There’s no argument from me that the unstructured, almost Sevens-style rugby some NZ sides are currently playing is very poor preparation for the upcoming international season.

Too many sides seem incapable of performing the basics, such as receiving the ball from restarts, winning their own ball at set piece, chasing kicks and contesting the ball in the air to put pressure on the opposition, and even setting their defence correctly against a set-piece move from the opposition. Make these mistakes against the Springboks or France, and you’ll pay dearly for it.

Nobody wants to watch a test match where it is only penalty goals or drop kicks, of course we want to see tries scored. But free-flowing play can only come when your set-pieces and game basics are good, and I would question whether some of the rugby we’ve seen sides like the Blues, Chiefs and Hurricanes would cut it at the higher level.

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