Ex-All Blacks coach: Boks-Lions series turned a lot of people off

Former All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has suggested the style of rugby employed by both the Springboks and British & Irish Lions recently produced a game that no one wants to watch.

In an in-depth interview with Newstalk ZB’s Elliott Smith, Hansen called for an antiquated set of laws to undergo simplification, while suggesting all teams needed to take ownership of changing their approach to the game.

Asked specifically about the recent Test series between the Lions and the Springboks, Hansen said both sets of coaches didn’t have trust in their players to employ a more expansive approach.

“You’ve got two big packs and two coaches who don’t have any faith in what’s going to happen if they throw the ball around, so they just beat each other up. ‘Let’s slow the ball down, let’s get off our feet, do whatever we can to make sure our defensive line is stable so we can keep battering’.

“It’s not a game that anybody wants to watch. Yes we want a good physical contest, that’s what the game is all about – physicality, speed, using the ball and skill. Could you say we saw that in that series? Of course we didn’t. And it turned a lot of people off.

“All of a sudden, the All Blacks became popular again – ‘let’s hope the All Blacks can save rugby’. It’s not about the All Blacks saving rugby, it’s about everyone that’s involved in it taking some ownership and saying ‘right, we need to do something here’.”

Hansen added that there were a lot of problems facing the game, and officiating changes were desperately required, as well as a more proactive approach from World Rugby.

“The issue that we have in our game at the moment is there is no clear officiating of the rules. If you look at the rulebook, it talks about a ruck and it never talks about the breakdown.

“Breakdown is a word used more often than any other word in the game – there’s not even a rule for a breakdown and we have an old, antiquated law that says two people will bond over the ball and that’ll be a ruck. Well that never happens in the game …”

Hansen said there needed to be more simplicity and clarity when it came to officiating and the law book, particularly at the breakdown.

“I think the biggest issue is it’s too complicated. When players don’t understand it, when people watching the game don’t understand it, when coaches don’t understand it, when referees can’t be consistent, we’ve got an issue and we’ve got to address that issue.

“What we’ve tended to do over the years is add, add, add; when history will tell you that if you make something simple, by taking things away, then you’ll get more consistent at making those decisions.

“I’ve been beating my head against a brick wall for quite some time to get people to understand that we’re over-complicating it.”

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Craig Lewis