Having watched his side struggle to provide a breakdown service in their laboured victory over Rotherham, Richard Hill has voiced his concerns that rugby is in danger of becoming a sport of basketball-like, tit-for-tat scoring.
The Worcester head coach’s contention is based on the manner in which the Titans were able to monopolise possession at Sixways with a series of low risk attacks around the fringes that virtually negated any chance for the hosts to win turnover ball.
Hill believes that Andre Bester’s side was empowered to do that by the latest ruck directive which means defenders must release the tackled ball-carrier before going back in to try and strip the ball.
Teams have quickly become wise to the opportunity to string together umpteen pick and drive phases that serve little purpose but killing time or denying the opposition possession.
And with every other Championship side wary of the firepower at Hill’s disposal, the former Bristol coach knows Worcester will have to deal with such tactics unless something is done to change the way the current laws are interpreted.
“The referee made it easier for them because there was no real contest at the breakdown,” Hill said. “There was not one single penalty for holding on to the ball and not one person managed to jackel the ball at the tackle.
“So if the attack are never penalised for holding on to the ball and the defence never get a chance to pinch it, you then have a no contest at the tackle and all you are hoping for is that the attacking side make a mistake and that’s the only way you get the ball back. The laws aren’t designed for that.
“We have got to be a bit careful that we don’t make it an unopposed-type situation where unless the opponents make a mistake you can’t get the ball back. That really suited their tactics with that referee.
“I am not criticising him because he was refereeing the interpretation as it should be but I think the law makers have got to look at it carefully. If a lot of teams begin to play like that it is going to be very difficult to get the ball off them and it will be like basketball, where one team will score and then the other team will score and so on.”
And for Hill it’s more than just entertainment value that’s at stake. “It’s the key situation.
“It has stopped a lot of aimless kicking, it makes you think more carefully about whether you kick or not.
“But we have been trying for 15 years of professional rugby to try and get the tackle right and it’s not quite right yet.”
Unless you’re from Rotherham.