Former England manager Clive Woodward has claimed that rugby is at times “unwatchable” due to teams relying on kicking the ball too much.
Much of the rugby served up so far in the Autumn Nations Cup has been tough to watch, with many sides happy to kick the ball back to the opposition and defend for large periods of games.
Woodward, who led England to winning the 2003 Rugby World Cup explained in his column in The Daily Mail why he is afraid the sport is in danger of driving fans away.
“Rugby has become the most exasperating, infuriating, frustrating and, occasionally, completely unwatchable game.
“Kicking should always be part of the game — but only part. If it takes over to the extent we are seeing, it’s not rugby any more.
“It’s just as well there are no crowds because by midway through the second half they would be voting with their feet.
“It’s killing the game and is a huge turn-off for any casual sports fan who has turned to rugby during this year of the lockdown,” Woodward wrote.
After a year of disruption and empty stadiums, many rugby unions and clubs are under immense financial pressure and there is no certainty that things will improve any time soon.
Realising this, Woodward has appealed to coaches and players to play entertaining rugby in the hopes of pulling in some new fans and some much-needed revenue.
“Rugby’s finances are very perilous, so we need to be pulling in new fans and keeping the old. At present we are driving both away.
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“I would love to ask all six teams and the six sets of coaches what exactly they were hoping to achieve by the endless downfield punts and ill-directed high balls?
“What’s the end game here? Are you happy spending the prime years of your short rugby life playing like this?
“Do you not wish sometimes to play 80 minutes of exhilarating, skilful running rugby with yes, of course, some clever grubbers and kick passes to the wing?” Woodward commented.
One round of matches remains in the Autumn Nations Cup, with England taking on an under-strength France in the final of a tournament which has thus far failed to capture imaginations.