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'People are getting bored': Former All Black makes startling admission that NRL has overtaken union

By Sam Smith
(Photo by Hannah Peters/Getty Images)

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Former All Black fullback Israel Dagg has made a startling admission that rugby union is being ‘absoluted dominated’ by its rival code, with rugby league commanding more of an audience in New Zealand.

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Dagg surmised that sport fans in general are becoming disenchanted with the game of union as a result of the cardfests that have been issued in order to crack down on high contact and other indiscretions at the ruck.

Thus the game of union is constantly in stop-start mode due to referee and TMO intervention, compared to the NRL which has decided to continue on with lesser in-game punishments for such discretions.

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As a result rugby league is enjoying a much higher ball-in-play time and regular free flowing action which is appealing to fans. As a spectacle, league has surpassed what rugby union is offering.

“We’ve got a real situation at the moment where rugby league and rugby union are competing and rugby league is absolutely dominating,” Dagg said on The 42.ie’s Rugby Weekly Extra podcast.

“If you want to go and watch sport for entertainment, you go and watch league at the moment.

“They’re ticking all the boxes and one of the biggest factors is that they have got clarity in how the game is being played.

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“The game [union] is just… the rules, the officiating – it’s confusing. It’s so stop-start and there’s no ball in play.”

The All Blacks three-match test series against Ireland was a quality spectacle from a historical sense, however the second test was influenced by a host of cards issued in the first half including a red card to prop Angus Ta’avao.

The TMO interventions in rugby are adding significant time to the overall broadcast where an 80-minute game can take well over two hours to finish in some cases.

The brutal State of Origin decider which saw the return of explosive fights and vicious tackles in a gladiatorial spectacle, Dagg said the centrepiece series of rugby league commanded much more interest by comparison.

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The former All Black said that the game has become ‘too confusing’ and is in ‘dire need of change’.

“You want to see the ball in play,” Dagg said.

“You don’t want to be watching players get ready for a line-out or a scrum going down or the ref going up to the TMO. The TMO is p—– me off.

“I just think the game of rugby is too confusing and there’s too much of it on our TVs and people are getting bored.

“It’s in dire need of change. How we go about it I am unsure but a good start would be to get some common sense in the officiating.”

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