Did over-regulation suck the life out of the Rugby World Cup?

The idea of writing is to pour out your feelings and welcome any support from those mutually aligned. It is meant to be cathartic, especially after a Rugby World Cup loss to South Africa.

The Springboks know how to win by whatever means it takes. Win by a point? No problem. Having no fear to play a style of rugby that will not be earning the raptures of new fans? Sure thing. Winning is all that counts, it is their name appearing on the cup, not New Zealand.

As for the game itself, I was tempted to turn it off in the first half, my fear of having a referee or TMO negatively influence the outcome becoming apparent. I will not go through the full list of grievances but will shorten it to the role of the TMO, box kicking and red/yellow cards. I will put this simply; you have the ball in possession and then you take a 50/50 call that you will get it back from a box kick? I will not go on; it pains me to do so.

Just like many things in life, the final act is what people remember and a Rugby World Cup Final is no exception. This was our showcase, our piece de resistance, the big kahuna, but have to say it fell flat. If you can produce some positives, please let me know. South African fans will pinpoint some.

Yes, I know the losing side blames the ref and not the failings of their side, but did mental frailty get the All Blacks in the end, or were they just unlucky? To lose Sam Cane to a red card had a significant impact, and do the South Africans understand what it takes to be awarded penalties better than other teams?

Sam Cane of New Zealand walks past the The Webb Ellis Cup following the Rugby World Cup Final match between New Zealand and South Africa at Stade de France on October 28, 2023 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Ramos – World Rugby/World Rugby via Getty Images)

To win a match from a scrum penalty is not an onerous task nowadays.

Does a loss override all other emotions and common sense? If the All Blacks had knocked over a drop goal in the last minute, would we be feeling better about the game of rugby?

For some reason I was feeling a little flat before the Final, as though the All Blacks had already achieved enough under Ian Foster with the win against Ireland. We had gone further than expected and anything else was a bonus. Were the All Blacks playing for Ian Foster rather than New Zealand?

It is over now and we must wait another four more years, with an interesting time for many of the teams. Will the negative aspects of rugby be reviewed and addressed?

My Stan subscription was cancelled today and it will take some good games of rugby and lesser influence by officialdom for it to be reinstated.

Who is the greater rugby fan, the one who sticks by the game through hell and high water or the person who advocates for change to make the game better? Both play a role and it is the combining of the two that will drive rugby forward.

The purpose of this article? To express my disappointment at the direction rugby is going in with rules based on eliminating the risk of legal action and tactics used by teams that will lose fans.

Will we ever see a game like the 2013 clash between the All Blacks and South Africa in Johannesburg where exhilarating rugby was experienced? Were the conditions that bad in the 2023 Final that they restricted an expansive game?

I remember a certain All Black/Wallabies encounter at Athletic Park in 1996 that belied the fact it was played in atrocious conditions. The dream would be for the 2027 Rugby World Cup in Australia to be played on hard grounds, under sunny weather with breathtaking rugby enjoyed by vast numbers of rugby fans!

Oh, and with minimal interference by referees and the TMO, or am I deluded?

The world we live in now will not allow a relaxing of regulations and we will be even more compliant with personal safety a greater priority than enjoyment of life. Yes, the two must coexist but not at one expense to the other.

Ask the boxer if their sport should be banned as it is deemed “dangerous” or the motorbike rider what it feels like to ride without a helmet? Everything we do is risky, from work to driving to sport. Over-regulating will suck the enjoyment out of life.

Rugby players know the risks of playing. Personally I had to wear a collar for a neck injury and then ruptured my Achilles tendon. Does it stop us playing? Of course not.

Sam Cane should never have been given a red card. The TMO and the ref were the stars of the show.

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