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How speeding rugby up could expose players' ability to 'think for themselves'

By Ned Lester
Sam Cane fronts media. Photo by Kenta Harada/Getty Images)

World Rugby have announced plans to speed the game up, releasing a shortlist of ideas for how to go about the change and while the intent has been popular amongst fans, the realities of what they might mean for the players is a speculative topic that’s starting to gain interest.


Throughout the recent international seasons, teams have adopted different strategies to manipulate the game into being played at their preferred pace.

The prevalence of injury stoppages and reset scrums as well as water breaks have contributed to less time with ball-in-play and therefore a diluted spectacle for fans.

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New Zealand sports broadcaster Mark Watson joined Martin Devlin on The Platform and discussed what changes like the introduction of a ‘shot clock’ timer on set piece and a reduced tolerance for water breaks could mean for the players, especially those in leadership positions.

“The players these days are so overresourced that they actually don’t know how to think for themselves anymore,” Watson said.

“The waterboys are just basically running coaching messages out there the whole time, they’re just ‘do this do that’… get rid of them, let the players play the game. Let the players think and let the players go ‘actually, hang on a minute, now we came out here with plan A, the opposition’s not allowing us to do that, maybe we need to adopt plan B’ and actually empower these players to start thinking for themselves because I’m sick and tired of a team being down and it requires a half-time speech for them to come out and sort of right the wrongs.”


Martin Devlin referred to a previous interview with ex-All Black Justin Marshall – where the two had discussed the final ten minutes of the All Blacks‘ recent draw with England – to emphasise the questionable decision-making capacity of players in real-time.


“He (Marshall) said it was up to the senior players against England at that stage to take charge and go ‘okay, they are playing differently, this is how to do it’,” Devlin said. “And when I was listening to him I was thinking, well do these players these days actually think for themselves like that or do they just wait for the order from the coaching box, saying ‘can you please tell us how the game is actually manifesting here and what we’re actually meant to do?'”


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Jon 50 minutes ago
Buoyant England travel to New Zealand full of hope but are they walking into an All Blacks ambush?

> New head coach Scott Robertson has kept only forwards coach Jason Ryan and conditioning coach Nic Gill from the previous regime *and so there is little institutional knowledge inherent in the new team.* Shows you what the English know about sport. Isn’t just fantastic that the best rugby team, or brand, on the planet has three brothers playing together? One a bull, the other a dancer, and last a .. boxer? Looks like a boxer bless him. > But Robertson has been working to fix that issue, with senior players and coaches having been regularly meeting to work out how they will operate together both on and off the field to ensure there is strong decision-making and a deep understanding of how the team wants to play. Have they? I would suggest then it is not a case of fixing things, that is not what Razor does. Razor will evolve the relationship between player and coach into a more symbiotic relationship. This wont be a coach that shouts down at his players theyre not doing good enough. I can imagine one of the first key areas he will be implementing is the respective leadership for each coaching group. Tight five, Loosies, Halves, Centers, and Back Three, will each have their own leadership team and an agile approach to the playing group relaying what they believe is happening on the training paddock, and in games. It will be a very big step to get everyone involved, able, and thinking about contributing to that process, but I believe a very beneficial one if successful. > England may have their best chance to win in 21 years, but they may also be walking into an ambush – *about to be hit* by a young, gifted, supremely physical and athletic All Blacks team coached by a man who has made every post a winner so far in his career and has this uncanny knack of getting the best out of people. Or, by a group hurting from not getting over the line and proving to everyone they are the best in the world, full of experience and cohesion, grit and motivation. You only need to look at someone like Patrick Tuipulotu to see someone with a fire under his belly from missing out on the last RWC due to injury, and having lost to this opposition in the previous one. It will be very interesting to see how this ‘Razor’ plays it. Does he stick with the traditional and protect the time honored All Black values of commitment, or does he evolve and pick the best players to win the Rugby Championship - and by association this test series - like Akira Ioane?

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