So far we have seen nearly 30 more tries scored in the Gallagher Premiership compared to last season. People are saying the product is fantastic and the games have been amazing, and they absolutely have been. I can only think of one relatively low-scoring game so far, and that was Newcastle against Bristol (14-5). Everything else has been a try-fest, end-to-end action.

That gets you thinking about the players. They haven’t suddenly improved over the summer, developing brand new skills and a new mindset. Does it actually come down to the fact that the stress being placed on the middle-tier teams to avoid going down, and the restrictive nature of that, previously turned them into sides who took to the field trying not to lose. And how strong is that thought process, that fear, in terms of stopping a player going out there to do what he is instinctively geared to do – find space, run fast, make offloads and create tries. Has that all been stifled for so many years by the threat of relegation? Or does it speak more about the controlling nature of the coaches?

Haven’t they also changed the rules? About kicking for touch or summat? Stifling the ball at the ruck?

8 thoughts on “Umm”

  1. The new 50:22 kicking law means teams need to keep a couple of player in the back field and thus out of the defensive line. The breakdown changes were safety-focused but also seem to have resulted in the ball getting recycled a bit faster. Those rules have also made it become more difficult for teams to do repeated pick and drive on the opponents line and they also lose possession if held up over the line. So that encourages more open play.

    However I do think the lack of relegation encourages more exciting play, but it’s not the only thing. Also, Harlequins won the title last year with an open and exciting game, so that must have encouraged other teams.

    I’ve watched quite a bit of the Premiership this season and it has been highly entertaining. However, this is always the best bit of the season because the weather is good, no international duty and not much attrition. By February, when the weather is shit, many of the best players are on 6N duty and many are crocked or half-crocked, it will get a bit turgid.

  2. Rugby is an ever evolving sport, and a more open style of play has been developing over the last few seasons driven by changes in the laws but also the ‘arms race’ between defence and attack. Teams are finding it increasingly hard to batter through the opposition so need to find new ways to go around them.
    I like the proposal of McGeechan et al about having injury substitutes only – stop them bringing on a load of eighteen stone monsters for the final 20mins against weary opposition l

  3. Bloke in North Dorset

    The new 50:22 kicking law means teams need to keep a couple of player in the back field and thus out of the defensive line.

    Not only that, teams are kicking down the middle more often keeping the ball in play for longer leading to tired player. Tired players make more mistakes, especially in defence so we’re seeing a lot more broken play earlier in the game.

    Law changes are a bit of an arms race, coaches still haven’t figured out the best way to use that new law, nor the best way to defend against it.

    Also, Harlequins won the title last year with an open and exciting game, so that must have encouraged other teams.

    Wasps came within a mistimed lineout of winning the title the year before after playing some very exciting and open rugby.

    Attitudes do seem to have changed, though, and whilst defences are trying to get better organised , transition coaching seems to be the new darling of the sport.

  4. 8% increase in number of games perhaps
    One-sided games usually produce more tries – Saracens being added means slightly more games of giants versus minnows

  5. Egg-chasing’s not my sport, but it’s probably the rule changes. There’s always the perennial mucking about with offside in the footie, plus, these days, the deployment of VAR.

    Then again, under lockdown with no fans in the grounds, there were apparently an unusual amount of away wins and away goals.

    But it’s probably the rules.

  6. The nadir was the second Lions test. Over two hours of TV for about 30 odd minutes of ball in play.
    Previous Premiership games averaged about 30 minutes of actual play. Now it’s gone up to about 40, a 30% + increase.

  7. I help out down at my local rugby club and duties include occasionally driving the mini-bus for the ladies team away games (one on Sunday to Oxford).

    I keep thinking it is a sound tactic to just boot the ball downfield. There is a 50% chance the defender will drop/fumble the ball and if she doesn’t, there’s a 50% chance a pass will be dropped or fumbled before the defence makes up half the ground of the kick. Ground gained, our put in at the scrum.

    The standard is more enthusiastic than skilled. But no less fun to watch for that.

    Meanwhile the opposition in the men’s league game last Saturday only had 14 players.

    Grass-roots rugby is still just about alive and playing in the proper tradition.

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