The All Blacks believe rugby’s showpiece tournament is in danger of becoming a turn off for fans as “the perfect storm” of excessive stoppages mars the spectacle.
Laboured reviews by television match officials and repeated stoppages to get set pieces right, particularly at scrum time, have seen the sport referred to as ‘the game played in heaven’ being portrayed in a bad light.
It’s left the fans frustrated and the players bored, according to the All Blacks.
The stop-start nature has been particularly evident in pool matches between the top tier sides and the lesser teams who pad out the 20-team competition.
Stoppage time extended the showpiece tournament opener between England and Fiji from 80 minutes to more than 100. The 40 minutes in the All Blacks’ second half against Namibia produced just over 12 minutes of actual playing time.
One scrum in the Namibia match took four minutes to complete and “that’s not what the game wants,” All Blacks coach Steve Hansen said.
“You get a game like (against Namibia) the goodwill probably goes out the door, you get frustrated and I’m talking about the fans,” he said after his side scored nine tries in beating the rank outsiders 58-14.
Signs that the so-called minnows are closing the gap are evident with the cricket scores of previous World Cups no longer evident and the All Blacks 58 points posted against Namibia is the highest total from the first 13 games in the 48-match tournament.
But while ridiculously high scores have been reined in the clamour for perfect rulings appears to have ballooned out.
All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster attributed their unconvincing performance against Namibia to the stop-start nature of the game.
“It looked like we got bored,” he said. “When the game got slow and we were trying to make things up that’s when we sort of lost our form and our patience a little bit.”
Lengthy delays while the match officials (TMOs) review incidents and tries has “clearly been a talking point” said Foster although he defended the need for officials to ensure decisions were correct.
“But when you tally that up with the slowing down at scrums, with injuries and that sort of stuff those two things together are like a perfect storm.”
The All Blacks try to use breaks in the game to review their play and plan ahead.
“For large parts of the first two games we have used that time quite wisely, but there were just so many times we got confronted with that situation,” Foster declared.
“It wasn’t just TMOs, it was injury breaks, it was whatever was happening at scrum time, it was those breaks and they just multiplied.”