England rugby union coach Eddie Jones said that stoppages and too many reserve players are making the sport too much like American football, and steps need to be taken to speed up the game.
In an interview on New Zealand television, Jones said that matches of two scheduled 40-minute halves regularly take more than 110 minutes to complete because of stoppages for scrum resets, head injury assessments and reviews of referees’ decisions.
The ball is in play for only 35 minutes, a statistic which has not changed over 20 years, he said.
Jones has been head coach of national teams in Australia, Japan and England, and was part of the coaching group in South Africa’s winning Rugby World Cup campaign in 2007.
“We need to make the game faster,” Jones told Sky’s The Breakdown.
He advocates eliminating scrum resets in favor of free-kicks and reducing the number of replacement players from eight to six to help make rugby more attractive to fans.
Jones highlighted the recently introduced “six again” rule in Australia’s National Rugby League (NRL), which prevents teams from slowing down play at the rucks, as an example of how simple rule changes can improve a sport.
Rugby union has “gone too far down the power line and we need to get some more continuity back in the game,” he said.
Reducing the number of bench players in rugby would also help improve the game, Jones said, adding that the ability to replace almost half of a team late in the second half changes how coaches and teams approach matches.
“I’d only have six reserves and I reckon that’d make a hell of a difference,” he said, listing cover for all three front-row positions, another forward for the back five and two for the backline. “That would introduce some fatigue into the game.”
Endless scrum resets had become the most contentious part of rugby for fans, Jones said.
“We need to go to a differential penalty [free-kick] where you can’t kick for goal, and you’ve got to take a quick tap or kick to the line,” he said. “We’ve got to try and get some more movement in the game.”
Asked if England would be disadvantaged by the rule changes he advocates, because they play a power game, Jones said that all teams should be able to adapt.
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