THE 2022 Guinness Six Nations tournament will be remembered for many things, from the brilliance of France to the incredible Italian victory over Wales, from Scotland beating England and then under-achieving, plus Ireland’s hugely deserved Triple Crown.

Sadly, however, I feel that an otherwise exciting and memorable tournament will be recalled in future years as a turning point of the wrong kind – when law changes and tactical kicking transformed the way this professional sport is going to be played, and not for the better. Sure there was much excitement in the tournament, but there was a deficit of quality play and a surfeit of ‘safety first’ kicking.  

Rugby union used to be a relatively simple game but watching matches with people who are not students of the sport was a bit of a revelation for me – hardly anyone else in the room knew about the laws, and certainly not the law changes. It was therefore very difficult for them to follow the play, and just as an example, one fellow watcher expressed astonishment when Dan Biggar achieved his brilliant 50-22 kick against France.

“But he kicked it out so why are Wales getting the throw in?” was the gist of the comment, and I had to agree that it seemed perverse. Borrowed from rugby league, I remain deeply unconvinced by the whole 50-22 project but World Rugby will persevere with it and so there has been a subtle but important alteration to way rugby will be played in future – there will be even more kicking and there’s already too much of it in the modern game.

I am not the only one who is also ticked off by the new goal-line dropout laws. I just can’t understand why a goal-line dropout is given to the defending side when the attacking side is held up over the line and I am happy to cite the opinion of the best referee in rugby history, Nigel Owens, in support of my view that World Rugby should have a look again at this new law.

Owens said in an interview with “You’re actually rewarding defence rather than attack. In the past, the benefit of the doubt would go with the attack because it encouraged the attack in a game rather than a defence. 

“And I’m also seeing a little more kicking creeping in where teams are kicking long. Instead of dropping out from the 22 to restart you’re now dropping out from your own goal-line, the other team catches the ball on halfway and they kick it back, and we don’t see any quick dropouts taken anymore. That was a skill in itself, an exciting part of the game, and you don’t see dropout 22s now where teams are competing for the ball. 

“In the past when you dropped out a 22 your team’s forwards would compete for the ball and you could win it back. You don’t have that with the goal-line dropout anymore. It’s just a kick long now and the opposition team kicks it back. In the beginning, I thought it was a good idea, that this could open up the game, but I’m just not seeing it. It hasn’t helped the game and it’s de-powering the scrum as well (with fewer five-metre scrums). I don’t think that law is working.”

Couldn’t have put it better myself, Nigel. At least when he was refereeing, Nigel didn’t make up things on the spot, and during the Six Nations there were far too many refereeing decisions that were about interpretation of the laws rather than application of the laws – numerous referees during the tournament were making judgement calls on scrums, for instance, that were very dubious.

I think we will also see much fewer attempts at what are often the most exciting parts of the game – interceptions. Again refs are deeming that an attempted interception is a deliberate knock on, and worthy of a yellow card. So players will just stop trying to intercept wayward passes and again we will lose some of the entertainment value of professional rugby.

I have no problem with other law changes in recent years, but the 2022 Six Nations showed that rugby has become too complicated and moved away from its original concepts.

For instance, why was there so much kicking? It’s used tactically to clear the lines and hopefully put the opposition under pressure, but frankly it’s ruining the game. As one of my coaches back in the day used to say, “if God had wanted us to kick the rugby ball he would have made it round.”

Near endless kicking, scrums that take too long to form, referees not applying the laws correctly, and players who still don’t get it that thuggery is no longer part of rugby – all of these things made the Six Nations a tough watch at times.             

That’s why I send a KISS to the lawmakers – Keep It Simple Stupid.