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'Need some leadership': Sir Steve Hansen wants more 'common sense' in rugby

By Finn Morton
Steve Hansen. (Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

Former All Blacks coach Sir Steve Hansen has called on World Rugby to show “some leadership” ahead of this year’s Rugby World Cup, due to some issues facing the sport.

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On face value, international rugby has never been this exciting.

The countdown to this year’s World Cup is well and truly on, and the sport has never been in a better position.

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There are at least eight teams who can beat each other on their day, and they’ll all travel to France later this year daring to dream of eternal glory at the sports premier event.

While rugby immortality awaits those who hoist the Webb Ellis Trophy, rugby fans around the world just hope that the winner is crowned on merit and not controversy.

The term ‘grey area’ has become a relatively common phrase within rugby circles, with some decisions even perplexing those who consider themselves tragics.

Yellow and red cards marred test match after test match last year, and penalties have seemingly become more prevalent than ever before – there were about 30 awarded during the England vs New Zealand clash last year.

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Two-time Rugby World Cup winner Sir Steve Hansen wants World Rugby to “involve the current coaches and players” in some discussions about the future of the sport.

“We need some leadership from World Rugby around those points, but they need to be common sense things and they need to involve the current coaches and players,” Hansen said, as reported by Stuff.

“So we can come up with something that says ‘righto, so this will work and this will allow us to play the game’.”

Last year’s women’s World Cup final between hosts New Zealand and favourites England was a thrilling clash between two proud rugby nations – but the decider was marred by controversy.

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The Red Roses raced out an early 14-nil lead, and appeared to be well on their way to World Cup glory.

But disaster struck as winger Lydia Thompson was sent off for a high tackle on her opposite Portia Woodman.

Playing with an extra player, the Black Ferns rallied in front of their home fans, and recorded an exciting three-point win at Eden Park.

But depending on who you ask, that red card was either the correct decision or incredibly wrong.

In the men’s game, England star Owen Farrell was recently handed a lengthy suspension after he was cited after a Gallagher Premiership match.

Most red cards are awarded to players on the defensive side of the ball, which has led Hansen to ask whether it’s time to “change the rules.”

“From my understanding, a lot of the injuries are happening on the tackler,” he added. “most of the red cards are against tacklers, or people entering rucks.

“So we have got to change the ruck height; because you have to be able to clean out underneath (an opponent), and at the moment if you are a jackler, and you get there first, you just can’t clean out.

“So do we change the ruck height, or do we change the rules? If someone is on the ball, you can’t clean them out. They are free. I don’t know.”

But another issue facing the sport today – and it’s arguably more concerning – is the slow speed to play due to referee interference.

The second test match between Australia and England last year, which was held at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium, was very slow.

It seemed like there was a whistle every couple of minutes.

And unfortunately for rugby union, while that’s an extreme example, it’s not uncommon for the pace of play to slow down.

“People are getting sick of stoppages. Checking this, and checking that. Maybe we need to look at that and say ‘let’s give referees the licence to have 60/40.’

“If a minimum of 60% think it’s a try, then it’s a try. And if they get the odd wrong one, then so be it.

“Just use the TMO for foul play or anything you are not certain on, if you are 50/50, then ‘righto, let’s go up.’

“You don’t have to go up for everything. And the amount of time we lose, it’s phenomenal. They reckon it’s about six or seven minutes a game. Our fans don’t want that.”

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