WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — England rugby coach Eddie Jones says stoppages and too many reserve players are making rugby too much like American football and steps need to be taken to speed up the game.
In an interview on New Zealand television, Jones 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.
Jones has been head coach of national teams in Australia, Japan and England and was part of the coaching group in South Africa's winning Rugby World Cup campaign in 2007.
“We need to make the game faster,” Jones, who took over as England coach after a group-stage exit in the 2015 World Cup and guided the team to the final of the 2019 World Cup in Japan, told Sky’s The Breakdown.
He advocates eliminating scrum resets in favor of free kicks and reducing the number of replacement players from eight to six to help make rugby more attractive to fans.
Jones 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."
“The NRL is a good example of when you make one adjustment to a law and you change the game for the better," he said of last week's change in the rules for the 13-a-side version of rugby. ”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,” he said, listing cover for all three front-row positions, another forward for the back five, and two for the backline. "That would introduce some fatigue into the game.”
Endless scrum resets had become the most contentious part of rugby for fans, Jones said.
“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,” he said. “We’ve got to try and get some more movement in the game.”
Asked if England would be disadvantage by the rule changes he advocates, because England plays a power game, Jones said all teams should be able to adapt.
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