80+ column : Rule changes, Twitter trolls & Counting to 4

Welcome to my 80+ column, a weekly post featuring final thoughts from the week of rugby just gone  


Hard to believe this week’s wrap pod is the 19th under the new format, and it was good to have Ciarán Duffy back on along of course with Mark Jackson to talk about St Stephen’s Night’s victory down in Thomond Park.

If you missed it, check it out here or on most major platforms.


With the week that’s in it I’m leaving out a few of the website’s regular features, including YouTube & TikTok clips from the wrap pod.  Back to “normal” next week all going well.


I hope it’s obvious that when I disagree with a Player of the Match selection it doesn’t mean I have anything against the winner of the award.  Scott Penny got the gong from the TG4 commentary team at Thomond Park while I felt it should have gone to Dan Sheehan.  It’s a simple point and since I write this column every week I might as well bring it up but I certainly don’t do it to put anyone down.


Maybe one of the reasons I don’t want to produce too much extra content from the wrap pod is that I made a major howler in the recording that I’d rather forget!  Although I will offer full disclosure here as it involves an issue I’m interested in… 

As I watched the game live, let’s just say, I had been enjoying “the Christmas spirit” a bit too much which, let’s also just say, “clouded my judgement” a tad.  One thing I misjudged was the amount of tries Leinster had scored, and in that final sequence as we were attacking the Munster line I was really hoping we’d go for it because I thought it would give us a fourth try and a BP.

Then my thoughts went on to the BP system itself, and how we’ve been saying on the pod this season that the “4 try” method used in URC, Prem, 6N & RWC isn’t as fair as the “3 tries more” one used in Super Rugby & the 🔝🐱🐴.  This led me to form the “harpin’ point” that if we had gotten the try it would actually prove the 4-try way needs to be scrapped as it wouldn’t have been right that this particular match could possibly end in a 5-0 split of match points to the visitors.

Now that’s all well & good when I had a few beers on me (ok, maybe more than a few) but somehow my brain held on to the harpin’ point for 24 hours and I brought it up on the pod only for Mark to rightly explain that we had in fact only scored the two tries so the point was as moot as moot could be.

So as you can imagine that clip didn’t survive the editing process, however I still think the bonus point system needs to switch to the “3-tries” method.


I am so, so, sick of this sequence and would love for it to be broken.  Sadly it usually comes to my attention most whenever Leinster play Munster 

  1. Thing happens in rugby match
  2. A few people claiming to be “fans” of one team get abusive on social media towards fans of the other
  3. A few of those fans on the receiving end then expose the abuse, making it look like this is what fans of that team are like
  4. A long exchange ensues which many blame entirely on “rugby twitter”

To be absolutely clear, the 2nd stage of the sequence is the worst by far.  Obviously.  All forms of insults, abuse and bullying are wrong wherever they are found and need to be called out.

But someone also needs to push back on stages 3 and 4.

No, this is NOT what fans of that team are like in general.

No, this is NOT what fans of rugby are like in general.

And no, this is NOT even what Twitter itself is like in general.

IMO people who are capable of this behaviour don’t need to follow any particular team, follow any particular sport, or even use one or another particular platform.

When it comes to these exchanges, we need to make sure 100% of the negative attention goes on these instigators, yet when we respond by tying them to decent people who follow the same team, or same sport, or use the same platform, I reckon we siphon off some of that negativity for ourselves.

Call out the assholes as assholes by all means.  But we must also be sure to separate them from the decent people who just want to have a conversation.  And most of all, mute/block them.  It may be a vicious cycle the way things are now, but I believe it is one we have the power to stop.  

It might be a worn out cliché by this stage, but “haters gonna hate” is as true as it is concise.  


Speaking of assholes, Joe Marler.  

And actually he seems to be getting positive attention on social media because he apologised for what he is reported to have said to Jake Heenan on the rugby pitch.

Eh, no.  He’s got form.  He’s certainly no hero for apologising, that is the bare minimum of what he should have done.  Maybe, just maybe if he can go a whole calendar year without it happening again we can celebrate that, but in my book he has ruled himself out of any praise until then at the very very least.


This week’s column has already gone longer than I intended, with this point being the only one I originally intended to harp on.

Obviously I want to see rugby take measures to speed things up, yet I still feel somebody needs to push back a little against this introduction of rule changes, because I definitely have concerns.

First of all, while I know the rugby calendar is different all over the world, to make significant changes right smack in the middle of the European season goes against pretty much everything I believe is fair for a sporting competition.  I shouldn’t have to spell out reasons for why a tournament shouldn’t change its rules halfway through.

Plus there’s the added factor that we’re making changes just before a World Cup.  Maybe, just maybe I have too much “skin in the game” on this point being a Leinster & Ireland fan because Johnny Sexton does have a reputation for taking time on his placekicks, but since he’s such a high profile player, to bring the change halfway through a club season as well as three-quarters of the way through a RWC cycle would seem to affect him more than others.

But my biggest reason for pushing back on these changes has to do with player safety.  

Yes, we want to avoid time wasting in the game where possible and this will definitely help keep the “casual fans” interested, but I have to ask, just how much of a problem is this REALLY?  Is it possible we might be over-reacting a bit when it comes to stoppages?

The actual playing time of a rugby match is one hour and 20 minutes.  Factor in fifteen for halftime and you’d really hope the final whistle will blow well short of the two-hour mark after kickoff time.  And that’s what we should be aiming for.  

For example, Leinster’s recent Heineken Champions Cup match against Gloucester at the RDS kicked off at the later than usual time of 8pm of a Friday night.  That meant I was always going to be anxious getting my bus home as it can often take a while leaving the ground given the press box is right at the back of the Grandstand so I have to wait until the bulk of the supporters leave before I can.

Yet I not only made it to my bus stop to catch it at 10:15, I actually waited seven minutes before it came.  Maybe the one-sided nature of the scoreline helped but I still didn’t stand up to leave until the final whistle blew.  And for me personally, that’s fine.  I really don’t know how many tweaks and changes to the Laws we’d have to make that would actually be worthwhile getting me out of there any sooner.

On the subject of water breaks, they don’t bug me as much as they do most other viewers although one concern I would have about them is that I fear they are being brought in to facilitate matches being played in places like Dubai & Qatar in future, and there have been rumblings in the press recently that this does look like happening.

Which brings me back to player safety.  For me, this is a much bigger issue we need to address, and there are areas when it comes into direct conflict with the time-saving.  Whether we like to admit it or not, tackle technique is still a major grey area in our beautiful sport and it’s one we have to keep working at.

And unfortunately some of this “work” involves teams of officials making sure they get their calls right especially in the high profile matches as their exposure will hopefully trickle down to all levels through the sport.

So as I have said before on these pages and I won’t tire saying it again in the future, when it comes to TMO calls the last thing the officials need is added pressure from the viewing public simply because we’re worried about a few extra seconds being somehow taken from us.

Like I say, if matches start lasting two hours or more then we know things are going wrong, but we should also appreciate that efforts need to be made to help ensure that actual careers last as long as they possibly can.


Good news, there were no new names added to the list and it’s great to see Messrs Furlong & Connors close to being available.

The final group still contains many concerns however.  I don’t like suggesting some injuries are worse than others but Henshaw is a name Leinster & Ireland would want to see moving up the list sooner rather than later and for the province it doesn’t look good to see Jenkins there either. 


Tadhg Furlong: will again step up his rehabilitation this week from an ankle injury and will be assessed as the week goes on

Will Connors: will look to step up his rehabilitation programme further this week as he nears a return from a bicep injury

There are no further updates on:

Thomas Clarkson (arm), Ed Byrne (knee), Jason Jenkins (hamstring), Robbie Henshaw (wrist), Martin Moloney (knee), Ciarán Frawley (knee), Charlie Ryan (knee) and Tommy O’Brien (knee)


The 22 portion of the 22/23 is done for Leinster and we kick off the 23 at the RDS with Connacht the visitors.  We’ll have the preview on Friday and the wrap will record on Monday.  In the meantime, have a happy and safe New Year and be sure to enjoy your rugby wherever you are.  JLP

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