England coach Eddie Jones says a stricter policing of the breakdown by referees – much like that seen in Super Rugby Aotearoa – will help rugby break free from the defence-dominated spell it is under currently.
Attacking rugby has been hard to find in the northern hemisphere’s Autumn Nations Cup with defence and kicking often deciding matches – a trend Jones admits is more “a real game for the purists” than the average fan.
Jones says the current style boils down to the current dilemma at the breakdown where the tempo of the game is getting stalled.
"Unless we are able to get quick ball it's very difficult to play with any fluency," Jones said.
Jones said one of the biggest issues at rucks is tacklers rolling away slowly and referees not enforcing a “zero tolerance” approach.
To back up his points, Jones referenced how referees policed games in this year’s Super Rugby Aotearoa, where prior to the competition’s launch, officials said the breakdown would be a particular point of focus.
That focus led to 58 penalties in the first two games alone but Jones said it eventually led to a faster, cleaner game.
"At the start of the post-lockdown in New Zealand Super Rugby, the referees went very hard at offside, very hard at the breakdown and were roundly criticised, so it seems people want to have both sides of the cake; they don't want the referee to referee the laws, then when we get slow ball they criticise the game," Jones said.
"I've always been an advocate of the referee being there to enforce the laws and if we have a high penalty count then so be it. The bonus of having a high penalty count is that you're able to get quick ball."
Another positive of keeping the game moving will be more action for fans, Jones added.
"I have always said we need to make the game more fatiguing," Jones said. "We have too many stoppages in place. Increasingly we are creating shorter periods of play and longer periods of rest, and that does not produce any fatiguing effect in the game."