With all of the Northern Hemisphere nations departing before the semifinals of the World Cup, we look at what can be done to improve the fortunes of teams in Europe…
1.Introduce bonus points into the Six Nations
The idea being that by encouraging attacking rugby teams will learn to develop vital ball handling skills throughout the entire XV. One thing that became abundantly clear during the World Cup was that the Southern Hemisphere sides were able to regularly score tries from all areas of the field whilst their European counterparts struggled, even when they had a numerical advantage.
2.Import coaches from the Southern Hemisphere
It’s clear that in many aspects of the game, coaches in the Southern Hemisphere have begun to make leaps forward whilst coaches in Europe are still bogged down in more traditional styles of play. By bringing over more coaches like Vern Cotter and Joe Schmidt, European coaches will be given the opportunity to learn under their stewardship before eventually taking over the reigns.
3.Group kids based on size rather than age
One innovation that has no doubt helped some of the Southern Hemisphere nations is the introduction of size based teams rather than age based. This means that coaches can no longer rely on kids who have been through an early growth spurt to simply barrell over the opposition. Instead kids have to develop well rounded rugby skills from 1 – 15.
4.A Super Rugby style competition
One of the harder options to implement, but a Super Rugby club competition in Europe could be a huge boost for international teams. The problem at the moment is that there isn’t a consistent level of quality competition in leagues like the Pro12. Compare this to Super Rugby where comparatively the number of poor teams is much lower.
5.Encourage coaches to move abroad
The likes of Michael Cheika and Steve Hansen have both spent time working in Europe to hone their skills and look at how the game is played across the globe. This has no doubt influenced them as coaches and helped them lead their sides to strong runs in the World Cup. Unfortunately it seems like European coaches aren’t willing to try going the other way.
6.Transition to a summer calendar
Not only would this mean a joined up global rugby season, but it would also allow European teams to play in better conditions, allowing them to develop more expansive games instead of playing ‘stick it up your jumper rugby’. This would encourage forwards to develop ball handling skills and endurance in order to play a greater part in the game.
7.Make better use of the sevens programmes
Currently sevens and full XV-a-side rugby are two entirely separate programmes in most of Europe, whereas teams in the Southern Hemisphere use it as a development route. Players involved in sevens develop certain skills like spotting space and spend more time with hands on the ball. Therefore teams should be seeing sevens as a development opportunity.
8.Introduce the set piece later in the development phase
By delaying the introduction of scrums and lineouts until later in the development phase, kids will be given the opportunity to better hone their core skills such as running, catching, passing and tackling without having to worry about some of the more technical aspects. It would also help to keep the ball in play for longer.