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Crusaders' win highlights need for law change - White

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Tuesday, July 9, 2019    Getty Images

In his column for alloutrugby.com White said: "For the first 20 minutes of the Super Rugby final, the Crusaders were getting absolutely bashed by the Jaguares' line-speed, and the Kiwis were turning over the ball.

"Then there was a water break at the end of the first quarter and the Crusaders got together for a team talk. From that moment on there was a definite change in tactics.

"Instead of getting hammered with ball in hand, the Crusaders decided to kick when they were between the 10-metre lines, and that's where they got their attacking ball – from Jaguares knock-ons or penalties, or they won it in the air," he said.

It had been from halfback Bryn Hall's box-kick that hooker Codie Taylor had scored the only try of the game.

"The Crusaders won their 10th title by kicking instead of keeping the ball in hand – they finished the game with less possession and territory, and won.

"That reminded me of the 2007 Rugby World Cup. In the last eight games at the tournament (the four quarterfinals, the two semis, the third-place playoff and the final) the team that had less ball won seven of eight matches," he said.

It had been the same in the 1995 World Cup were South Africa succeeded in a non-try final. That flew in the face of a [Super Rugby] competition were try-scoring was the optimum goal, yet in the 2019 final the team that won had less ball but scored the only try.

"You'd think that having more of the ball would give you a greater chance of winning the game, but it's not the case and probably won't be the case at the 2019 Rugby World Cup," White said.

One way to change would be to reward possession-based teams by making it easier for them to get into try-scoring positions.

"I think it's fantastic that World Rugby is considering implementing the 50/22 rule. Based on a similar law in rugby league, the 50/22 rule would award a lineout to the kicking team if they successfully kick from their own half and the ball rolls into touch inside their opponent's 22," he said.

That would force changes in how defending sides spread their resources. A player on each flank would have to be stationed in order to contest kicks aimed for touch in the 22m zone while players would have to patrol the middle of the field to cover more tactical chip kicks or up and unders.

But acknowledging that for every action there is a reaction, White said it was likely teams would continually kick to the 22 looking for attacking lineouts. He suggested to reduce the impact of the original change, another law should allow the defending team to mark a kick from inside their opponent's half and be awarded a free-kick anywhere on their opponent's 10-metre line.

That would make the kicking team think twice before giving the ball way.

"It would completely change the shape of the game and create something that's never been seen before. It wouldn't be the first time that's happened – consider that lifting jumpers at the lineout used to be illegal, wingers used to throw in at the lineout until someone worked out they were more useful in the backline, and penalties kicked into touch used to give the receiving team the feed.

"The shape of the game needs to change. Currently, you don't get rewarded for having the ball, you get rewarded for having field position and defending.

"Rugby should be a possession-based game, otherwise what's the point of having a ball?"