Respected Premiership boss angered by World Rugby ‘madness’ over law tinkering

Colin Newboult
Rob Baxter, Exeter Chiefs director of rugby, in 2024.

Rob Baxter, Exeter Chiefs director of rugby, in 2024.

Rob Baxter has urged World Rugby to stop tinkering with the laws or risk alienating the new supporters the sport is trying so desperately to attract.

The Exeter Chiefs boss insists that, despite the governing body’s best intentions, they could actually be harming the game.

World Rugby have revealed a series of law proposals that will be voted on in May, but Baxter doesn’t believe they are needed.

Confusing the fans

“We need to stop changing the laws. We’re trying to grow the game and there’s no sport in the world that tries to grow by confusing new supporters every 12 months,” he told reporters.

“The game was fine three or four years ago, and we didn’t need to change it then – 90% of the law changes are to redo things that have been created by other law changes. It’s madness.”

Baxter, therefore, hopes that if new laws are introduced next month, it will be the last of the governing body’s meddling.

“You grow the game by introducing new players and people to it, but we’re confusing new people every year by changing laws and interpretations,” he said.

“We’re pre­venting ourselves from allowing a good product to happen. If they decide to make law changes [in May] then they have to decide to put a moratorium on not changing them any more. Let’s settle down and get on with it.”

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Among the proposals are 20-minute red cards, closing the offside loophole from kicks and introducing a free-kick law which could depower the scrum.

There are also measures to enforce existing laws that are intended to speed up the game which have perhaps been neglected by match officials. This is where Baxter believes that World Rugby should be focusing their energy on, rather than the constant tinkering.

Reinforcing existing laws

“I kind of hope that we just leave things,” he said.

“They’re reinforcing two or three things to let the game keep ­flowing – we don’t need to do any more than that. We seem ­infatuated with ­thinking that depowering the scrum and maul will create this game ­everyone wants to come and watch.

“The more you depower the scrum and maul, the more you’re going to ­create a game that people are not going to want to watch because there’ll be no space.

“If there’s no free-kick option at a scrum then as soon as the scrum hits the floor or whatever, the back-row are going to be up. There are going to be so many things people haven’t thought about, like depowering the maul. The best way to create space on a rugby field is to power up the maul.

“When people say: ‘You can’t stop a maul,’ you can always stop a maul. You just have to put in as many or more people than the opposition. That’s how you stop it.

“People don’t want to do it because then there’s space in which tries can be scored. But that’s the whole point. Keep the maul powerful so teams have to commit bodies to it. I just wish we’d stop changing the laws; it drives me potty.”

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