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Rugby | Castle Rugby Championship

Graham Henry © Gallo Images

Australia and NZ criticise kicking game



Australia and New Zealand have joined forces in attacking the increasing reliance on kicking in international rugby.

New Zealand coach Graham Henry said the game had become a "poor product" while his Australian counterpart Robbie Deans said kicking had taken over as the single deciding factor in major matches.

"Particularly when you've got a side like South Africa who are so able to play the game that way," Deans told reporters on the eve of Saturday's Tri-Nations match between New Zealand and Australia.

"They essentially won the World Cup in 2007 without playing."

Henry said he wants the sport's lawmakers to investigate ways of changing the laws to encourage teams to run the ball instead of always kicking it.

"The product you're looking at needs some attention, quite frankly," Henry said.

"I think we need to have some attention on that and the people who make the laws to try and improve the product."

Arguments about the best way to play rugby have raged as long as the game has been played. While some exponents prefer a running-based game where the emphasis is on scoring tries, others prefer a kicking-game based on accumulating penalties from opposition errors.

Exponents of the riskier running game believe the balance has recently tipped too far in favour of the kicking game after England (2003) then South Africa (2007) won the last two World Cups with their conservative approaches.

But Henry said a formula was needed to ensure both styles of rugby remained effective and running rugby did not have to be replaced by a simpler, safety-first gameplan.

"I think you can do both. We've done both in the past and I can't see why we can't do both in the future," Henry said.

"I know there's been a bit of an emphasis on kicking and sides not catching particularly well and people are trying to exploit that.

"We need to think outside the square about how we can change the game so it's more enjoyable to play and better to watch."

All Blacks skipper Richie McCaw said he believed the current rules favoured teams who kicked the ball a lot and he had no problems with teams exploiting those rules to ensure they won.

However, he said he also expected New Zealand and Australia to revert to their traditional running game at the Olympic stadium Saturday.

"Usually the Australia-All Blacks fixtures are pretty entertaining," McCaw said. "(Both teams will be) keen to make sure it's a game where there's plenty of quick ball and there's no excuses for not having an entertaining spectacle."

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