Stuart Lancaster has outlined some of the changes he wishes to see in the sport of rugby union.
The Leinster senior coach is currently back at home in Leeds but he’s certainly been keeping busy.
On top of his regular duties with Leinster, the former England head coach has been conducting online seminars with AIL coaches throughout Ireland in addition to a worldwide conference with the current Head of Game Development with the RFU, John Lawn, which saw 2500 coaches from around the globe participate.
The current COVID-19 pandemic has led to a detailed examination of the health of rugby both from a playing point of view and the finances which drive the sport. In the context of the ongoing election for the next World Rugby chairman, which sees Bill Beaumont and Agustin Pichot battling it out, there has been plenty of discussion of the changes the respective nominees would like to implement if elected.
There is a general consensus that the global rugby calendar need to be aligned i.e. international windows and club seasons in both the southern and northern hemispheres should take place at the same time.
When quizzed on the changes he would like to see, Lancaster immediately cites the alignment of the rugby season but also explains why an increase in ball-in-play time is also something which he would like to see.
“I can’t steer away from the alignment of the global season and making sure that there is an organised programme that allows the players to benefit from playing international rugby at the highest level and also playing club rugby at the highest level,” Lancaster said.
“In a way that is structured, that it doesn’t overplay those key individuals. That would be my wish.
“On the field, I guess, the wish for the evolution of the game is to try to help the ball out-of-play time so that we can, again, build a better product for people to watch. I think when sport does come back, I think there’s going to be pressure and rightly so on sports to produce entertainment that people want to watch.
“I think rugby is very much in that bracket and we need to make sure that we deliver a product that people want to watch. I think trying to reduce the ball out-of-play time and get the game moving and flowing would be key, really.”
In terms of the laws of the sport, there are some interesting trials taking place in various competitions around the world. One of the more interesting trials is the 50:22 rule. Similar to rugby league, this would see a lineout awarded to an attacking team who kick the ball from their own half which bounces before going into touch inside the opponent’s 22.
Again, this is something which Lancaster believes could be useful but he would like to see the outcome and the results of the trials before passing a final judgement.
“I’ve seen in rugby league, the 40:20 kick. I understand the theory behind it because if a lot of teams are filling the front line with defenders and you only have one in the backfield, then you’re going to be very exposed if people put kicks into the 22 and you end up with an attacking lineout in there.
“So, it will potentially have the effect of putting more people in the backfield which leaves less in the frontline for sure. That said, if you’ve got an attacking team and you’re playing against a team that put 14 in the front line and one in defence, you’d be pretty stupid not to kick it there anyway, to be honest.
“That’s the beauty of rugby, there are lots of different ways to defend, a lot of different ways to attack, it’s winning the game of chess. Whether the rule is necessary or not, you’d hope not but equally, I’d be interested to see how the trial periods go on that.”
Interestingly, Lancaster also wants to see coaches worldwide increase their knowledge and expertise. His reason for this, as he explains, is that better coaches equals better players and ultimately, a more attractive game.
“My second wish would be to improve the level of coach development across the board. I think some countries do it really well. Again, just referring back to my own experiences in the last few weeks. As well as the Irish AIL coaches conference. I did one that was set up through John Lawn in England, who I used to work with at the RFU.
“There were 2500 coaches on that. There were coaches from all over the world. I think people are hungry for knowledge and hungry to improve as coaches. If we have better coaches then we’re going to have a better product, more enjoyment for players and a better game.”