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New Zealand rugby chief says the sport needs to bring in 20-minute red cards
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New Zealand rugby chief says the sport needs to bring in 20-minute red cards

New Zealand’s top rugby official says the introduction of 20‑minute red cards at all levels of the game is an increasingly urgent necessity if the sport is to remain relevant to younger fans. He has also warned that rugby needs to think more about its paying public if it is serious about enhancing the game’s appeal in the longer term.

With the All Blacks due to face England in the first of two back‑to‑back Tests in Dunedin on Saturday, the New Zealand Rugby chief ­executive, Mark Robinson, has renewed calls for the red-card ­system to be reformed this year, urging World Rugby to extend its closed ­trials to the entire global game.

“We’re the only sport in the world that creates a mismatch like we do and still expects fans to turn up and pay for it,” Robinson said. “I think it’ll be good to see the red card come down in terms of the amount of minutes players spend off the field. We’ve got to keep driving hard at keeping the fan at the very forefront of what we’re doing.

“There are more trials going on but that’s one thing we really believe in. Along with anything that can speed the game up, create more entertainment value and encourage less ­intervention from TMOs. You cannot have your sport stopping for two minutes at a time and taking two hours duration and connect with fans who are coming to games expecting something else.”

New Zealanders feel particularly strongly about this after the costly sending‑off of their captain, Sam Cane, in the World Cup final against South Africa last October. Since then, World Rugby has instigated a number of trials of 20-minute red cards, including at the World U20 Championship this year, whereby an ­offending player can be replaced by another player after 20 minutes to reduce the numerical advantage created.

The most recent high-profile example came in last month’s Premiership final when Bath’s Beno Obano was sent off for a fractionally misjudged tackle on Northampton’s Juarno Augustus. Robinson is among those keen that similar incidents do not undermine the north v south Tests this month. “Law reform has to happen faster,” he said, denying that southern hemisphere nations are looking to bend the shape of the game to their advantage.

“The things we feel really good about leading in this part of the world are coming through as being the right thing for the sport. More tempo, less intervention, more ball movement. We’ve been headed down that track for a number of years and it’s really starting to have an impact. We’re ­seeing other parts of the world acknowledge that this is good for the sport, too.

“You can still have great scrums. I don’t think anyone would say we want to change the whole integrity of the game with no rolling mauls or scrums.”

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Three law tweaks come into force at Test level this week, with teams no longer allowed to opt for a scrum from a free-kick, offside players required to retreat following kicks in open play and “crocodile roll” clear‑outs outlawed.

Source: theguardian.com