Super Rugby Pacific R1 ball in playing time improvement in 2022

The move to speed up Super Rugby Pacific and increase the amount of ball time in play is off to a promising start, with Round 1 figures now confirmed to be an improvement on those for 2022.

Judgment laws, which prohibit crowding before line-outs and set a firm time limit on the definition of scrums and shots on goal, were generally welcomed by players, coaches and fans alike over the weekend, as referees issued several rushes and Ryan Louwrens of the Rebels was even penalized for taking too long to clear the ball off the base of the ruck.

TMO’s ability to intervene has also been reduced in Super Rugby Pacific.

And numbers provided to ESPN now confirm the widespread perception that fans witnessed more action over the weekend compared to last year’s first round.

According to Oval Insights, the average ball in play in the first round was 1:54 more than in the 2022 season. The average for 2023 was 31.21 against 29.27 last year.

The Crusaders-Chiefs game led the first round games with a time of ball in play of 38.15, while the Waratahs-Brumbies competition in Sydney was at the other end of the scale with 26.29. Still, that figure on Friday night in Sydney was a stunning 4:32 improvement on the lowest first-round game in 2022.

While it’s just a data weekend, Super Rugby Pacific admins will be thrilled with the results. It also comes on the heels of similarly positive progress in the Six Nations, where many of the same time-wasting tweaks have also been implemented.

The Ireland-France clash in week 2 of the tournament clocked up an impressive 46:12 minutes of playing time. Clearly, there have been other, less compelling cases, but if the ball in play trend continues upwards, World Rugby will be under pressure to implement the laws permanently across the world.

Brumbies block Nick Frost, who on Wednesday was awarded the Wallabies Rookie of the Year for 2022, said it was just the beginning but that players already understood that they needed to adapt.

“Obviously it’s a trial period for either team and obviously the referees have to get used to it and the players too,” he said.

“But then again, we (the Brumbies) time ourselves anyway from a line-out point of view, we talk about coming in and keeping the ball in play. As I said, the whole thing, first and foremost, is around safety. in the scrum, so obviously we have a shock clock there.

“But I think in general everything is a bit balanced, we have to protect some of the integrity of the game around our scrum and our lineout, that’s what sets us apart compared to other sports. But it’s good that we have a little bit acceleration up there.

“But TMO is probably the biggest that players are very happy with; obviously we’re not having full court hearings on the field, we’re just having a quick decision and then moving on.”

While Frost played in the first round game, which had less time on the ball, it was noticeable after the break how he opened up as fatigue began to take its toll. The first half also saw several scrum resets and penalties as both forwards struggled with their timing and engagement under referee Nic Berry.

The Brumbies were also forced into a late bench change when prostitute Lachie Lonergan was ruled out, the scrum contest was further impacted by Connal McInerney’s early concussion, which brought on veteran John Ulugia, and Waratahs sustains the toe injury by Angus Bell, who has now likely ruled out the Wallabies’ front rower for the remainder of NSW’s Super Rugby Pacific campaign.

While Frost said he didn’t notice a huge difference on Friday night, he said it could save time in the scrum in particular.

“We’ve had very few test matches in pre-season and it will be quite common for that to be on the referee’s mind, on our mind,” he said.

“We’ve been training for a few weeks now. It doesn’t feel very fast, sometimes it’s close to the scrums; if the ball is there, we’ll play football. It’s better for both teams instead of seeing two or three resets, it’s not good for us, it’s not good for the game, it’s not good for the fans.

“So if the ball is available to play, let’s play some football.”

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