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What 'frustrates' Wayne Smith the most and the law he would change

By Liam Heagney
(Photo by Fiona Goodall/World Rugby via Getty Images)

Blacks Ferns director of rugby Wayne Smith has revealed what he describes as the part of the game that leaves him most frustrated. The former All Blacks boss and 2011 World Cup-winning assistant is preparing his women’s team for the World Cup they are hosting from next week in New Zealand.

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The tournament kicks off on October 8 with a mouth-watering triple bill at Eden Park featuring South Africa versus France and Fiji against England before Smith’s Black Ferns host Australia in the third match of the opening day. 

Following a stellar playing and coaching career in the men’s game, Smith fell into the women’s World Cup scene by chance, casually telling NZR CEO Mark Robinson over a coffee last January that if the Black Ferns coaches needed a hand he would be happy to do it. 

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By mid-March, the existing coaches said they would be happy to have Smith in but before he arrived, John Haggart resigned and a high-performance review didn’t give Glenn Moore the space to continue. This messy situation resulted in Smith quickly being announced as director of rugby of a team he now describes as a goldmine consisting of lawyers, teachers, students and so on. 

Interviewed by ex-England player Giselle Mather in the Rugby World preview magazine ahead of the World Cup in New Zealand, Black Ferns boss Smith was asked if he could change one law what would he do? His answer was enlightening. “I’d change a lot of them,” he said. 

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“The first one would be to take out scrum resets. I reckon you should have one chance. I’ve coached with Mike Cron for decades and when we started in the early 2000s, he wouldn’t let any scrums go down in training. Every time a scrum went down, they had to do a ten-metre army crawl. Scrums stopped going down! That’s the most frustrating part of the game for me. Then teams use it to their advantage to scrum for a penalty, then they kick it to touch, drive, get a penalty, kick to the corner and drive for a try. 

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“It’s so frustrating. They could do two things. Either make you play off a free-kick, so you can’t kick for goal, so you’d see some innovations around tap kicks which would be great. Or, because the game is about grouping and spreading, if you want to group them and have a scrum, then it’s a golden oldie where you have got to win the ball.  

“The height of the tackle is heading there but tackling under the ball and as low as possible is key,” Smith continued. “What that would do in my mind is allow you to keep the ball alive more often. You’re tackling low, so it would make you work harder on support play and create fewer rucks, which are danger areas. It would reduce the number of rucks and increase spectator enjoyment which doesn’t seem to be a factor at the moment.”  

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