Eddie Jones says too many stoppages for scrum resets, player substitutions and refereeing decisions are making rugby too much like American football and steps are needed to speed up the game.
In an interview on Sky News Zealand’s The Breakdown talk show, the England coach said matches of two scheduled 40-minute halves now regularly take more than 110 minutes to complete because of stoppages for scrum resets, head injury assessments and reviews of referee’s decisions.
He said the ball was generally in play for only 35 minutes, a statistic which hasn’t changed for 20 years. He advocates eliminating scrum resets in favour of free kicks and reducing the number of replacement players from eight to six to help make rugby more attractive to fans.
He also highlighted the recently introduced ‘six again’ rule in Australia’s National Rugby League, which prevents teams slowing down play at the rucks, as an example of how simple rule changes can improve a sport.
He said rugby union has ‘gone too far down the power line and we need to get some more continuity back in the game’.
‘We need to make the game faster. The NRL is a good example of when you make one adjustment to a law and you change the game for the better,’ Jones said.
‘It’s definitely become less of a wrestle in the NRL and a faster, more continuous game and I think we need to make that adjustment.’
Jones said reducing the number of bench players in rugby would also help improve the game. The ability to replace almost half a team late in the second half changed how coaches and teams approached matches.
‘I’d only have six reserves and I reckon that’d make a hell of a difference. That would introduce some fatigue into the game,’ Jones explained, listing cover for all three front-row positions, another forward for either the second row or back row, and two for the backline.
He added that endless scrum resets had become the most contentious part of rugby for fans.
‘We need to go to a differential penalty [free kick] where you can’t kick for goal and you’ve got to take a quick tap or kick to the line. We’ve got to try and get some more movement in the game.’
Asked if England would be disadvantaged by the rule changes he advocates, because England play a power game, Jones said all teams should be able to adapt.
Photo: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images