There’s been a fair amount of discussion amongst rugby-heads this week about a Welsh proposal to increase the points for a try from five to six points and reduce goal and drop kicks to two points. The idea is to promote more ambitious, running rugby.
My initial reaction was: the Welsh? A northern hemisphere union? Are you sure?
As it happens, I’ve been watching some replays of matches from the 1987 World Cup on the Sky pop-up channel, and what struck me is how far the game has come in 28 years.
By today’s standards the games were fairly shambolic. The passing was laboured, the defence was chaotic and the lineouts were rolling accidents.
Some of the difference undoubtedly comes from law changes: tries are now worth five points, yes, but the noticeable ones were in the scrums (they used to just fold in together without any instructions from the ref) and the lineouts (no lifting, so just tall blokes reaching up and having a go). The difference now is the precision in every facet of the game.
And I’d suggest the real source of that difference is the switch to professionalism in 1995. Players today are bigger, stronger, faster and hugely more skilled. (That also applies to the refs. The 1987 version would not have looked out of place in 1905: short-sighted gentlemen in tweed coats getting in the way, insofar as they were anywhere near the play.)
And the big law change, as it relates to the issue of the points differential between a try and a goal kick, was the introduction of the sin bin. Losing a player for ten minutes is a far greater penalty than giving away the three points.
So, where do I stand on increasing the points for a try? Pretty ambivalent really, even though at every World Cup the All Blacks are the leading try scorers.
Any team can choose right now to play to score tries. You don’t need permission from the Evil Overlords, just go out and give it a go. You’ll end up a better team.
But ask me again if the All Blacks lose because of penalty kicks.