Henry calls on IRB to improve rugby

International rugby is a poor spectacle and needs more emphasis on running the ball rather than kicking, All Blacks’ coach Graham Henry said on Friday.

Henry, preparing the All Blacks for their crucial Tri-Nations Test against the Wallabies on Saturday, said rugby needed attention by the International Rugby Board (IRB).

The New Zealand coach’s comments come after Tri-Nations’ Tests this year have been largely decided by goalkicking.

South African flyhalf Morne Steyn has been the tournament’s most influential figure so far, kicking eight and then seven penalty goals to ensure victories over the All Blacks in Durban and Australia in Cape Town this month.

“The product you’re looking at needs some attention, quite frankly. We, and the Australians, like to play a ball-in-hand type of rugby and enjoy playing the game,” Henry told reporters.

“That’s part of the product and we think that’s important, so I guess the product’s not too great and that’s disappointing.

“I think we need to have some attention on that and the people who make the laws try and improve the product, and the people involved try to improve the product.”

Henry said there is an over-emphasis on kicking and the game had suffered as a result.

“I know there’s been a bit of an emphasis on kicking and sides not catching particularly well, and people are trying to exploit that,” he said.

“We need to think outside the square about how we can change the game so it’s more enjoyable to play and better to watch.”

The IRB have trialled experimental law variations (ELVs), but did not adopt them after intense opposition from northern hemisphere unions last May.

Wallaby coach Robbie Deans said it was unsurprising that the removal of the ELV sanctions had resulted in more kicking.

“When you look back at the World Cup in 2007, it was always a possibility, particularly when you’ve got a side like South Africa, who are so able to play the game that way,” Deans said.

“They essentially won the World Cup in 2007 without playing.

“There is a lot of kicking but the kicking has improved as well.”

Deans said the current laws needed to be given a chance through better policing by referees.

“I think we’re missing the opportunity to keep people on their feet [at the breakdown],” he said.

“If we do that we’ll get the benefit of the laws the way they are currently [then] it will provide more scope to play.”—AFP

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