Ruck return will test players, referees and coaches - Barnes

Richie McCaw clears a ruck 1566171419

He said in his The Times column the removal of the jackal could only be good for the game. Had it never come into existence Sam Warburton would still be playing for Wales while Australian flanker David Pocock would have been an unknown. All Blacks flanker Richie McCaw would still have been the world's best because he had the most balance in his game.

But the exponents of the jackal are suffering too many injuries to the head and neck and changes are needed.

Looking at the other side of the breakdown, Barnes said the jackal was responsible for damming the flow of the game, creating defence lines across the field and forcing teams to build phase play.

What the proposed changes could assist was the return of the ruck, something completely alien to the professional rugby generation.

"The concept of binding on to a teammate and driving over the tackler and tackled man is an occasional novelty. Commentators call it 'counterrucking' when there is nothing counter about it.

"Rucking was never exclusive to the team in possession. It was a two-way contest. This has either been forgotten by people who should know better, or was never known by this rugby generation," he said.

But Barnes was concerned at changes being made too quickly and the effect that might have on the ruck's return.

"Few players, even coaches, understand how and when to ruck over the tackler and/or tackled man. It will be a blessed sight to see players penalised for charging, unbound, into the breakdown. But can we expect referees, themselves utterly confused by a ruck, to have a club about what is going on?" he said.

Any new concept would have to be accurately refereed and Barnes was concerned that would be the case, citing the way the breakdown is refereed now.

"The breakdown has become the Wild West of rugby, with an unbelievable laissez-fair attitude to it.

"The reason for the libertarian approach of the referee is the fact that the jackal cannot be competed against unless maximum force is used. Without men competing with hands on the ground, we will have to revert to the old style rucking of the last century.

"Players bound, driving over the melee. As spectators, we will have to get used to the sight of blood. Boots will make contact with prone players, you cannot stop and watch where you are going. Those tight jerseys are going to be either reinforced or ripped. In the process, numbers will be committed to stealing or securing the ball.

"A few stitches here and there is a price worth paying for being caught on the wrong side of the tackler, but there will be bleating and there will be players rising from the ground, pointing at their sullied shirts. Referees are going to need fast-tracking in the art of rucking," he said.

Barnes said such a scheme would force the end of players acting like missiles diving into breakdowns and players would have to learn not to kick loose ball and to drive over the ball to secure it.

"In theory, the ruck frees space by forcing a contest. As a by-product it cuts the injuries. I am massively in favour of both outcomes but that is not the same as expecting it to work well; not for a while," he said.

The jackal did need to go but it should be phased out, not thrown out immediately, Barnes said.

Richie McCaw clears a ruck 1566171419


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