Playing the running game will help move rugby forward

by staff

Wow! As a neutral spectator, how good have the opening games of the Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup been? Tries, tries, tries and more tries. New Zealand have really laid down a marker in their opening games.

They have displayed power, skill and speed, and most importantly, an attitude to keep the ball in hand and to do what we as players like to do, and that's play running rugby.

Against South Africa two weeks ago, we saw the Wallabies produce probably their finest display in recent times, using the ball and playing with the whole width of the field. We saw the likes of Rocky Elsom and Matt Giteau get back to what they do best - run with the ball.

Quade Cooper kicked the ball once in that match and that has been unheard of from a fly half in recent times.

The change of laws at the breakdown has certainly been the main contributing factor. In the past it has been in your best interest not to play with the ball in your own half as the defensive side had an advantage at ruck time.

With the change, the attacking team now has the advantage and that's how it should be.

The game has become quicker and the ball is in play longer.

We have seen that when teams have kicked poorly the opposition have cashed in on brilliant counter attack. This is the best ball with which to attack, as it is unstructured and the hardest to defend against with your defensive line often in 6s and 7s.

The kicking stats per game have basically halved and the try tally is chalk and cheese compared with last year.

We are now seeing running and passing skills come to the fore. Don't get me wrong there is a place for kicking but not as much as we have seen in recent times.

As an Australian, it was obviously tough to watch last weekend's defeat, but at least there was something to watch and not an endless display of aerial ping-pong. From the kick-off, both teams showed intensity with ball in hand and used this to shape their attack, rather than engaging the leather on their boots.

Rugby needed a change to be introduced, the game had become quite static to watch and to be honest at times rather frustrating to play.

The question is whether the running game is here to stay?

As a player I for one surely hope so. If the powers to be stay smart and keep the laws in this format, teams and players will continue to be encouraged to get creative with ball in hand rather than kick aimlessly downfield.

As a brand, supporters lost faith in our game and the other codes have leapt ahead a little. I feel we are now starting to gain a little of the gap back and hopefully we can capitalise on this even further leading into the 2011 World Cup so we can showcase the game of rugby, and the way it should be played, on the world stage.

Remember the game we love to play and the game you love to watch is all about flair, entertainment and enjoyment. I'm sure everyone who has watched the opening games of this Tri-Nations series has given those boxes a big tick, albeit with our rival neighbours having the upper hand for the moment.