Loose Pass

Date published: March 11 2015

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This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with Steve Hansen's fears for world rugby, Wayne Barnes' coaching clinic, the so-called popularity of women's rugby and why props should not attempt drop goals.

Hansen urges rivals to roll the dice

New Zealand boss Steve Hansen has earned the right speak out on whatever bugs him about the modern game having notched an unprecedented three straight Coach of the Year titles.

So when Shag speaks, we should listen. His recent venture north to take in some Six Nations action produced a headline-grabbing interview in which Hansen expressed concern at the lack of tries in international rugby and the heavy emphasis on defence.

He also warned that the sport runs the risk of becoming 'boring' and turning spectators away from the game if there is not a switch in focus and called on coaches and players to inspire change.

Some may see his comments as the opening salvo in the World Cup mind games. Maybe having seen Ireland neutralise England with a kicking dominated game he fears Joe Schmidt's side out-thinking and out-playing his All Blacks later this year?

Or perhaps he prefers the thought of taking on an England side that gives the ball some air instead of relying on forward dominance and is attempting to tempt Stuart Lancaster into a high-risk game?

But wait. Maybe he really does have genuine concerns about the future of the game? His comments certainly have some substance – and not just because he is widely regarded as the best coach in the world and is in charge of the No.1 ranked team.

Rugby has not been at its best of late. His comments are valid and fans around the world would certainly welcome more tries and more entertaining rugby, but if he thinks his words are going to prompt immediate change he is sadly mistaken.

No coach is going to tear up their grand plan in favour of an attack-minded approach just six months out from the World Cup and no player is going to throw caution to the wind with their own tournament hopes on the line.

It is true, a positive approach from coaches and players can produce entertaining rugby, just look at Hansen's own squad that still manages to thrill in this defence-dominated world.

But as Hansen himself hints, a greater responsibility lies with officials both on and off the pitch. Referees and their assistants need to get tough on slowing the ball down at the breakdown and policing offside.

Clarity from World Rugby or a tightening of the Laws would also be beneficial but again don't hold your breath. No changes will be made until after the World Cup at the very earliest.

Only when these aspects are nailed will we see more coaches and players rolling the dice.

Barnes gives Burgess a helping hand

What a delight it was to catch referee Wayne Barnes offering rugby league recruit Sam Burgess some one-to-one tuition on the more technical elements of the game during Bath's otherwise forgettable Premiership clash with Sale Sharks on Friday night.

Confused as to why he had been pinged at a ruck, Burgess sought clarification with Barnes who offered a clear and concise explanation before assuring the former 13-man code star who is desperately trying to get up to speed ahead of the Rugby World Cup that, 'We'll get you there'.

It was a perfect example of a good referee doing all he can to ensure the game flows as smoothly as possible and not, as some may have suggested, an official giving one side an unfair advantage with an insight into his reasoning.

The best referees will communicate with players throughout a game and carefully manage each aspect of what is a technical sport, giving instruction and even praising those who excel and play the game at its best.

Some may have criticised Steve Walsh for his 'lovely pass' comment to South Africa's Willie le Roux following his contribution to a try against England in November but I have no problem with such interaction.

Do you? Barnes' lesson for Burgess is also an excellent example as to why he has now racked up 150 Premiership games. He is not everyone's cup of tea and he may be prone to the odd error, but I like his style.

A prop-er funny drop goal attempt

You've probably not heard of Vadim Cobilas but chances are you've seen the kicking masterclass he served up at the weekend.

The Sale prop became an internet sensation with his attempt at a drop goal during his side's Premiership clash against Bath barely getting off the turf.

His daisy-cutting effort understandably had the commentators in hysterics although the Moldovan did not appear to see the funny side.

His side may have had a penalty coming but why risk ridicule at training and on social media with a shot to nothing? Props should stick to what they do best – pushing.

Just knock the ball on and let one of the guys with the coloured boots step up and slot an easy three. Of course, he's not the first prop to attempt to punctuate his highlights reel with a crowd-pleasing cameo with the likes of Matt Dunning and Adam Jones having enjoyed mixed success with the boot – but at least both of them got the ball off the ground.

Women's Rugby on the up?

World Rugby marked International Women's Day by proudly announcing that 1.77m women are now playing the game around the globe.

This 'record' number is commendable but there are some not so impressive figures that suggest all is not well in women's rugby, at least in England.

A memorable Women's Rugby World Cup triumph in France last year was supposed to spark a huge rise in participation and interest but is the feel-good factor already wearing off?

The Rugby Football Union were quick to target an increase in playing numbers from 10,000 to 25,000 within three years and time will tell if they can hit those numbers but a crowd of 3,000 for England Women's Six Nations clash with Italy last month at the 15,000-capacity Twickenham Stoop must have been a little disappointing to say the least.

There is no such apathy across The Channel where a crowd of 9,000 saw World Cup semi-finalists France sweep Wales aside and keep their Grand Slam hopes alive.

Loose Pass is compiled by former scrum.com editor Graham Jenkins

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