Major talks are set to be held in the coming days to decide the future of rugby, with the meetings already described as the "most critical" the game has experienced in the last 15 year.s

The pivotal meetings are set to take place in the UK next week between representatives of World Rugby, the Six Nations and SANZAAR, which oversees Super Rugby and the Rugby Championship. The future makeup and shape of the game will be discussed at length, with everything from law changes to the fan experience on the agenda.

Rugby is at somewhat of a crossroads, with the global game dogged by financial issues, concerns about player safety, confusion over laws and their implementation and, quite simply, a lack of entertainment. Join WalesOnline Rugby's new WhatsApp Channel here.

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With so much to thrash out over the coming days, New Zealand Rugby boss Mark Robinson could not overstate the importance of these talks. As he prepares to fly out to the UK over the weekend, he told Stuff.co.nz he was confident there would be "great change" as a result of the discussions.

“It’s probably the most critical set of meetings I can recall for the last 15 years or so,” he said. “That’s how we see them in terms of importance because of the focus on shape of the game and the opportunity, with everyone coming together with a similar view, for the on-field product to have the opportunity for great change.

“Whilst we’ve seen some amazing rugby in recent times, we are still seeing occasional contests where it is frustrating because of the nature of some of the rules. We’ve worked really hard, and feel confident that with the package of information we’ve put together with our leading coaches and high performance staff, with player and match official input and fan data, we go up there well prepared. We’re looking forward to some robust discussion coming out of those days.”

While he did not discuss his proposals at length, Robinson was clear that the game needed to become more fan-centred, an area in which he believes Super Rugby is leading the way. A move away from the status quo is required, he added, with faster, less interrupted contests an urgent priority.

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“We all know we have to take a highly fan-centred focus around what we want to see from the game in the future, and we want to see real progress come out of these meetings with clear actions around next steps as we look to work through this four-year cycle," he said. “We feel well prepared and we know Sanzaar is well prepared and largely very aligned around what we want to see around more tempo and flow in the game, and less interruptions and intervention. They are the broad themes we will be talking to.”

As part of their mission to make a more exciting end product for fans, rugby's movers and shakers are also likely to discuss the controversial 'Dupont law'. In recent weeks, players across the world have been exploiting the loophole discovered by the French scrum-half, with players not needing to retreat to get themselves back onside, leading to bizarre kicking exchanges and the middle of the pitch being overcrowded with stationary players.

A law change to eradicate it is being introduced to Super Rugby Pacific this season, in a trial sanctioned by World Rugby, with Robinson saying such a move proves fast action can be taken. “It shows if we’re really committed to it we can make change quickly," he said. "Because we turned that around very quickly."

“Issues around length of time for games to be played and interventions are again dominating some headlines and post-game analysis. Those are the sort of things we think we can do better with. It’s why we’re so excited. This is year two of [Sanzaar] really taking a lead on the global stage with our domestic professional competitions.”

2024-02-22T10:30:48Z dg43tfdfdgfd