Australia v New Zealand, Tri-Nations, August 22
Henry proposes law change
August 21, 2009
All Blacks boss Henry believes rugby is suffering from a 'poor' prodcut © Getty Images
All Blacks coach Graham Henry believes a rule change allowing players to claim a mark anywhere on the field would inspire a return to running rugby.
Henry insists that the current kick-focused international game is damaging the sport's reputation and is hoping the International Rugby Board (IRB) act later this year, at the halfway point between Rugby World Cups, to encourage running with the ball over kicking.
"The product you're looking at needs some attention, quite frankly. We, and the Australians, like to play a ball-in-hand type of rugby and enjoy playing the game," Henry said ahead of his side's Tri-Nations showdown with Australia in Sydney.
"That's part of the product and we think that's important, so I guess the product's not too great and that's disappointing. I think we need to have some attention on that and the people who make the laws try and improve the product, and the people involved try to improve the product."
Henry insisted the All Blacks could still find a balance between playing entertaining and winning rugby, despite the Springboks' dour approach seeing them race clear as Tri-Nations favourites.
"I think you can do both. We've done both in the past and I can't see why we can't do both in the future. I know there's been a bit of an emphasis on kicking and sides not catching particularly well, and people are trying to exploit that.
"Maybe if you had a mark every time the ball was kicked in the air, no matter where it was on the pitch, and you could have a scrum back or a free kick from that mark it may make the game a bit more entertaining. We need to think outside the square about how we can change the game so it's more enjoyable to play and better to watch."
Captain Richie McCaw was more relaxed about the state of the game, saying executing a plan effectively was his major goal.
"When you're out on the field you're just looking for any way possible to win the game. At the moment you get rewarded for putting the ball in the air and playing at the right end of the field and forcing teams into mistakes," McCaw said.
"Maybe that is something that needs to be looked at but from our point of view, looking at the weekend, we're going to use as much advantage you can get to win the game. But I think you've got to be rewarded for having the skill to use the ball in hand; that's what rugby has always been about. But you don't want to do that at the expense of costing you the game either."
Henry confirmed he and Wallabies coach Robbie Deans had both met with top South African referee Jonathan Kaplan in the hope of a free-flowing Tri-Nations/Bledisloe Cup Test at ANZ Stadium tomorrow.
A crowd of close to 80,000 is expected, with only a few thousand tickets remaining today.
"Usually the Australia-All Blacks fixtures are pretty entertaining and that can be said over a long period of time. I had a talk to Jonathan and I know Robbie did too. He's keen to make sure it's a game where there's plenty of quick ball and there's no excuses for not having an entertaining spectacle. Hopefully that happens."