By Ali Donnelly
Our article today from Sunday Times rugby correspondent Stephen Jones throws up plenty of interesting debate.
Jones is probably the only journalist who has been to every single Womens Rugby World Cup and certainly the most senior figure in the sports media world who consistently follows the game, so his thoughts are well worth a read.
I agree with him on the majority of the excellent points he makes especially that Maggie Alphonsi should have been awarded the IRB Personality of the Year for this year but I disagree on one.
Jones says very rightly that the one distinct feature lacking in the womens game is a consistently strong kicking game and suggests that the effect on this is enormous saying that it means teams can kill the ball and keep offending with the opposition unable to take advantage.
So far I agree with all of this but its the solution he offers I think would be a non runner.
He says that the womens game should consider a rule change which offers team to take penalty punts to touch from level with the offence, but as near to the touchline as they choose, so as to be able to pin the cheats further back.
He adds that he would also allow kicks at goal to be taken from the middle of the field, again level with the offence, to take off the extra distance added by the angle. So if you offend in near the corner on the 22-metre line, the other team take their shot on the 22 in the middle of the field.
I recognise, as anyone who watches womens rugby regularly does, that kicking is certainly an issue but changing the rules is not the solution.
My theory has always been that the IRB should seriously consider changing the ball size for the womens game. I believe that would be far more beneficial to the game with women likely to pass further and kick longer with a ball more suited to the average female body size.
The physical differences between men and women should be taken into account when it comes to sporting equipment. A smaller ball would certainly I believe speed passing in womens rugby and though Im no physiology expert, a smaller ball could also give a real boost to kickers in terms of power and distance. Accuracy is a different matter but thats down to practice as much as anything else.
As far as I know, the issue is on the IRBs radar, and trials with games using a smaller ball size have taken place but we have yet to see any reports on how they went.
Regardless of if that ever happens, I am opposed to making rule changes generally for the womens game as Stephen suggests above because I simply believe it would be to the detriment of the credibility of the sport, as well as for coaches and referees, many who work across the mens and womens game.
What we want at the top of the sport is a game that involves athletes showcasing all of rugby's skills at a very high quality - and the World Cup showed that the game certainly is at that level except for in its kicking standards.
One reply we had on our Facebook page from a former Black Fern kicker Anika Tiplady reads as follows:
Women's rugby has come so far in the last decade BECAUSE the players have been exposed to the difficulties of the game. Maggie Alphonsi would never have become such an amazing tackler if 10 years ago they made it a non-contact sport. Kelly Brazier would not be able to throw the 20m long passes if the field size had been reduced. Kicking I believe is in the same category. Dont limit what the women of today can achieve but look at what the young girls who are coming through can achieve in the future. Limiting us with rule changes will only limit the growth of skill in the game.
Those wide words show the strength of feeling there might be about the issue should the IRB have a think about what they could do.
Perhaps we at Scrumqueens will take some time in the next few weeks to ask some of the womens games leading kickers their thoughts on the issue those would be worth reading. Stay tuned for that.