Aviva Premiership
McGeechan hails exciting change
September 16, 2010
Bath performance director Sir Ian McGeechan (R) talks to head coach Steve Meehan, Bath v Edinburgh, Pre-Season Friendly, Recreation Ground, Bath, England, August 21, 2010
McGeechan is currently working alongside Steve Meehan at Premiership side Bath © Getty Images

Sir Ian McGeechan believes that the new law interpretations will see speed and skill rather than brawn shape the future of the sport.

The British & Irish Lions legend, currently performance director with Premiership side Bath, has hailed the impact of a directive from the International Rugby Board that demands defensive, rather than attacking, teams are refereed closely at the breakdown.

The result has been a lung-busting feast of running rugby most notably in this year's Tri-Nations but also in the opening rounds of the Aviva Premiership and McGeechan has predicted that this switch in focus will lead to a change in the shape of players away from the 'gym-monkey' culture of recent years.

"The ball in play time will impact the way we view the skills we expect players to have," said McGeechan at the launch of rugbycoachingdrills.com. "The power of the game will still be there, there will still be big hits and big impacts, but there will be a more fluid game around it.

"It will no longer be about impact for impact's sake. It will be about a dynamic impact to produce a dynamic game. I think we'll a more aerobic game. The more skilful a team is, the more pressure you can put on opponents

"If you are playing quickly then you can't have front-five players near the contact area the whole time, so your front five have to be able to do other things as well. In terms of selection you might be looking at a slightly different type of front-five player.

"You want competence at the set-piece but the real bonuses are in other parts of the game. The figures show there are a third more rucks and phases under the current interpretations, so players have to have confidence to be involved in that type of game."

McGeechan believes the clarity now provided for everyone at the breakdown is paying dividends. "It's the way forward because players and coaches now know exactly what a referee is going to do and is looking for, so the game progresses in the best way," he said. "This time last year the referee was refereeing the attacking sides and that's totally wrong.

"You referee the defensive side first and you give the attacking side every chance to play. There was an attempt to make every breakdown a 50-50 ball, but that meant if you had the ball you wouldn't play in your part of the field.

"Teams stopped playing and went for a kicking game. We're now seeing far more rugby because referees are refereeing defenders well. If I have an 85%-90% chance of keeping ball if I do things right at the breakdown, then the teams I'm involved in will play. I think the game is in really good health and there's a bit of stability about it. It's almost where we want it to be."

McGeechan expects a thrilling autumn with Europe's finest looking to play an expansive game. "The momentum is with the southern hemisphere countries because the Tri-Nations is the last tournament before the autumn," he said. "But I'd be very surprised if we don't see the home nations looking at increasing ball in play time and counter attacking. They'll be looking for specialist opensides.

"We'll be going back to steppers, speed and players who work hard off the ball. I'm excited about what we might see in November."

© Scrum.com

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