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Matt Dawson column: Rugby needs to change its laws to keep kids watching


Matt Dawson

After watching England’s win against Wales, I think there needs to be a change to rugby’s laws.

There were five offloads in that game.

As much as I am a purist and there will be parts that I enjoy, my kids are not watching the game. They are thinking it is just a load of bodies on the floor.

They are not seeing amazing passes or great tries – things they could imagine recreating in the garden afterwards.

Far too often now, rugby is turgid. We have got to make sure we have a product across the world that everyone wants to watch.

We have to ensure it does not matter what rugby is being played, you know you are going to be entertained. At the moment, it is determined by the time of year and the tournament you are watching.

I think there will be a significant change to the breakdown or tackle laws. All teams are so well-drilled in the way they defend and ‘jackal’ – standing over the ball after a tackle to win a turnover.

With their fitness levels they can continually do it ruck after ruck. It is getting to a tipping point where there is no space.

Maybe the laws could change so you only allow certain players to jackal or you are only allowed to send two people into a ruck defensively.

The main issue is that whenever new laws come in, you can guarantee that coaches and players work out how to bend them. You need to be ahead of that.

‘We need a fast and furious game’

Jack Willis wins the ball in a ruck
Wasps’ Jack Willis has become renowned for his jackalling in the Premiership

It is like the law that says you must stay on your feet at the breakdown. Jack Willis or Tom Curry can do the splits so they can stay in that position and steal the ball, but they are still leaning on the opposition.

Technically, they may be right but it does not lend itself to the game being free-flowing. I would like it to favour the attacking side more.

What is frustrating players at the moment is they could make a fantastic break and show brilliant skill but because they are isolated, the chances are the opposition are going to win the ball.

Watching France beat Italy later on Saturday, a couple of their tries were from brilliant offloads. That should be an intrinsic part of the game.

England flanker Sam Underhill said after the match that if people did not like scrums and line-outs, they should watch rugby league.

When you are a forward and you are playing the game, there is a huge amount of skill around the set-piece.

I still want to see a competitive scrum and I do not mind if it is not changed but they need to stop the clock every time the referee blows the whistle for a scrum.

Otherwise some scrums go on for four or five minutes. We have got to have officials who want to create a more fast and furious game.

‘England could reach World Cup levels again next weekend’

Head coach Eddie Jones said England have still not reached their best and I agree with him.

They have been progressing nicely. England won the Six Nations after beating Italy and then went through the motions against Georgia in terrible conditions.

Then they had the game won in the first half with impressive defence against Ireland and against Wales there were moments when you could see they were mixing up their attack.

They are on the right track and have set up an Autumn Nations Cup final against France, but we have yet to see it all come together.

If conditions allow next week and given the fact that several of France’s star players cannot play because of an agreement with the Top 14 league, it is a fabulous opportunity to roll out a top-drawer performance akin to their World Cup levels.

It is a real shame that they will be facing an understrength France side, rather than a team would would genuinely fancy their chances with all their superstar players. In England’s current state, France, New Zealand and South Africa are the three teams that will genuinely compete with them, particularly up front.

France do have strength in depth but with it being the grand final of the Autumn Nations Cup, England’s focus and mentality will be very different to that game in Wales.

Antoine Dupont runs with the ball
France will have to play the final without several star players, including scrum-half Antoine Dupont

‘Fans will sound louder than 2,000 at Twickenham’

You could tell from the warm-up in Wales, England were not quite at that full Test match intensity.

It was not until after about 25 minutes that something clicked, then England looked very dominant.

Sometimes it is hard to genuinely motivate yourself to intense, international levels in an empty stadium.

That is why I am excited that there will be 2,000 fans at Twickenham next weekend.

They will sound louder than 2,000 people because everyone is going to be really up for it.

People are going to be there early watching the warm-up, soaking up the atmosphere. There will be flags, singing and cheering.

When something goes well, you will hear the cheer and adrenaline will course through your veins.

It does not matter about the decibels, the players will have that different feeling of representing their country. It will stir something in them. It will spark up that extra bit of emotion.

Matt Dawson was speaking to BBC Sport’s Becky Grey.

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