Eddie Jones has urged rugby union to cut the number of permitted replacements to six in order to bring back fatigue, and has called on referees to sort out their own game in an effort to speed up the sport.
The England head coach has long demanded his side be the fittest team in the world, with his gruelling training regime paying dividends with a set of players who reached the Rugby World Cup final last autumn.
But the Australian fears that by having eight available replacements for every Test combined with the temporary substitutions for Head injury Assessments (HIA) and lengthy Television Match Official (TMO) reviews, the benefit of staving off fatigue is no longer being felt.
“We are letting fatigue go out of the game and apart from increasing the reserves to eight we have had to have HIA which has slowed the game down,” Jones said.
“We have had increased TMO and increased protocols which are going to slow the game down. Referees must get paid extra for debating a game on the field.”
Part of Bill Beaumont’s successful campaign to win re-election as World Rugby chairman was his support for a trial that will see the implementation of injury-only replacements, which would not only speed up the game but could see the size of players reduced due to the current allowance for them to be conditioned for maximum impact.
But Jones also wants referees to stop coaching the players, with lengthy debates not just over TMO decisions but in giving warnings to captains a bug bear of Jones’s.
“I was watching a game on the weekend when they were five minutes into the game and one team was defending their goal line, and (the referee) told the captain ‘if you transgress again I am going to send the next bloke to the sin-bin’,” Jones said.
“Why we allow the captain to slow the game down even more I don’t know.
“We have got to get some fatigue back into the game, we have got to get some space back into the game because otherwise we will end up with NFL. I would put the game down to six replacements and the referees communicating less about decisions and get on with the game.”
Having spent the last four months in Japan with no availability to coach, Jones has spent his time like the rest of us in watching any sport available. Australia’s National Rugby League was one of the first professional sports to resume following the coronavirus pandemic, and with Jones a fan of what the sport can teach rugby union, he needed no second invitation to watch the NRL unfold Down Under.
It taught him one more lesson that could help to speed up the game, with the league’s TMO system a much more decisive version of what union currently utilises.
“I think we have got to find out some way to tidy up the TMO,” he added.
“You have just got to watch a game of rugby league in Australia, it is clear and concise: ‘can I award a try, yes or no? Tell me why’. They have one or two looks and they make a decision and they are on them.”