McKenzie cries foul at rucks




With the Australian Super 14 sides all looking woeful and unimaginative on attack, Waratahs coach Ewen McKenzie has blamed the lack of attacking flair on constant offsides by defenders at the ruck.

“This is a serious issue for the game, not just for referees, but for coaches and players as well,” McKenzie said.

“Everyone has a responsibility to make the game look better,” McKenzie told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“The different interpretations involving the offside line at the ruck is affecting what can happen to the scrum-half in terms of interference. At the moment with the tackle contest, which becomes a ruck, there are multiple contests occurring around that, which affects the flow of the game.

“As a sport we have to work out what we actually want. We want the contest, but there is a time when that contest has to finish. And play has to be able to develop.”

With his mind on the lack of entertainment many sides have failed to provide, McKenzie added that the tackle area is “certainly not a spectacle”.

“It also doesn’t do anything to engender confidence in attack.

“If you have to overuse players to keep retrieving these mini-contests which occur around the fringe of the ruck, then you haven’t got any players to attack with. So the only option is to kick the ball.

“It’s a delicate balance, and a subtle thing in interpretation. Nonetheless people need to know the laws of the game. The last feet of the ruck is the last feet of the ruck.

“We really have to clean up that area, because it has drifted somewhat, and is affecting the play. It is not happening at every ruck, but if it occurs three or four times a half, it can change the ebb and flow of the game.”

But Mckenzie is not pinning the blame entirely on the referee’s shoulders.

“I’ve always said that referees have too much to look at during a game,” he said.

“And you can’t look at everything on the field. They need support. Touch judges should take more of a role, as should players and coaches.”

McKenzie’s views received support both from Wallaby coach John Connolly and Brumbies coach Laurie Fisher.

“Ewen has a good point,” Connolly said.

“The same thing happened when I was coaching in England, until the referees became very, very strict on the players offside in that circle around the tackle area, and the one or two pillars on the outside.

“When they became strict on it, it helped the game a great deal. The game was freed up, and it definitely gave the halfbacks a better opportunity.”

Fisher bemoaned the possibility of sides going offsides at the quick ball usually used for attack.

“I was watching the Stormers game last week and three or four times their guys got a big jump on their opponents,” Fisher said.

“As it is so dynamic, there are bodies going everywhere, and with the confusion when it is a ruck and when it is just a tackle, it is an absolute bunfight.

“The slower the ball the clearer is the offside line. But the quicker the ball, which is better ball to play off, the less distinct the offside line is.”

365 Digital

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