World Rugby driving maul crackdown no accident, and not a moment too soon

Still, that brings me to another bugbear with the game – the amount of time the ball is under “advantage” to an attacking team only for play to be called back, often after a minute or more has elapsed, to give that side a penalty .

There were almost 50 penalties awarded across the two Australian-based Super Rugby matches on the weekend: 22 in the Reds / Brumbies clash and 25 in the Waratahs match. That means a penalty every 3.2 minutes. And let’s generously assign a ball-in-play figure of 40 minutes per match. That works out at a penalty every 96 seconds while the ball is up for grabs. Remember, too, that while one team is under advantage, the other cannot score. Is it any wonder teams attack conservatively in general play, saving the razzle-dazzle for whenever they are under advantage and, as Stan’s Sean Maloney eloquently puts it, playing with house money?

Legendary former Wallabies playmaker George Gregan always ensured his side got their dues from the referee.Credit:Tim Clayton

Remember when George Gregan would deliberately knock on to ensure his team received a penalty that had been signaled. Why? Because he was afraid the referee would signal an “advantage over” if the Brumbies or the Wallabies did not quickly put their house money on a winner.

These days, however, the referees will regularly allow play to continue until the next stoppage and only then backtrack to award the penalty. Referee Angus Gardner at times retreated 40m up the field on Saturday night to award the Reds or the Brumbies a retrospective penalty. Yet did that 40m not constitute an advantage to the attacking team?

Think, too, how many times a penalty is signaled to the side clearing the ball from a scrum, simply because one of the opposition props had gone down. Rugby is supposed to be a contest for the ball yet, insidiously, with about half the game being played with one team under advantage, the contest is the one element needlessly being downgraded.

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One last bugbear. Let me join with fellow columnist Paul Cully in urging Taniela Tupou to remove the silly nonsense from his game.

Tupou truly has the capacity to become one of the global faces of the game. And what a happy face they possesses!

He doesn’t need to be sticking out a leg, even playfully, to trip an opposition player. Nor does he need to be directing the assistant referee where to raise his flag whenever the ball goes into touch. Nor should he be superseding his captain by signaling a scrum whenever a penalty is called favoring his side.

Rugby in Australia is going through a rough spell at present but with the men’s and women’s World Cups soon to be announced, that is all about to change. Meanwhile, it doesn’t need those smart-ass play.

Watch every match of the Super Rugby Pacific on the Home of Rugby, Stan Sport. Super Rugby Pacific continues this weekend with Force v Rebels (Friday 7.45pm AEST), and Fijian Drua v Brumbies (Saturday 7.45pm AEST). All streaming ad-free, live and on demand only on Stan Sport.

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