This year sees bonus points introduced into the Six Nations, women’s Six Nations, and U20 Six Nations. Many are cheering because they believe it will foster some free-flowing, cutting-edge attacking rugby.
Some may note that this move ensures that the women – some of whom will be contesting the Women’s World Cup later this year – will see two tournaments in 2017 with similar scoring systems. It could be suggested that this is favourable compared with two major events, in the same calendar year, which use different points systems to rank sides.
On the other hand, some are wondering what the point is, with the trend over the last few seasons seeing an increase in tries scored anyway. Others question if it’s worth the players concerning themselves over it, anyway. During the opening press conference at the Six Nations launch, Ireland captain Rory Best suggested that bonus points were not as big an initial concern as just trying to win their games in the first place.
Here are what some other coaches and captains said at the launch about the question, “Will bonus points change things?”
Eddie Jones, head coach of England
“No (they won’t effect how we do things). I’ve grown up with bonus points, I coached in Super Rugby when they first came in. It’s always been a factor that if you play well, you win. If you play really well, you win with a bonus point. It’s as simple as that.
“Definitely (there may be a higher number of cards because of tackles), that’s a distinct possibility. It’s going to be a bit of fun, with 14 versus 13 – you’ll see plenty of space. Then the bonus points come into it, so we have everything linked together nicely, haven’t we?”
Niamh Briggs, captain of Ireland women
“We haven’t really spoken about it. With our mindset about bonus points, I think first and foremost you need to go and win the game. After that, I suppose it may come down to the last minutes of whether to go to the corner or whether to go for the posts in relation to trying to get an extra point or to deny them an extra point. That sort of tactical stuff at the end may come into it, but for now it’s about preparing to win games.
“From a spectator’s point of view it’s probably a bit more exciting but from a player’s point of view you’re still preparing to go and win games. As the business end comes into the tournament you definitely know what points are needed, I’m sure it’ll become a factor then.
“As players we want to concentrate on playing the rugby, but it’s nice to know you’ve had that routine that you’ve experienced before and experience and you can take that into the World Cup.”
Rob Howley, interim head coach of Wales
“We hope it’ll have an impact. Sides may have more of an intent to play in the last 20 or so minutes of the game but listening to Rory Best, he’s spot on that you go into a high pressure game and you want to win the game first and foremost. There may be a mindset shift in the last 20 minutes if you find yourself in a bonus point opportunity.”
Simon Middleton, head coach of England women
“It’s changed our awareness, but I wouldn’t say it’s changed any of our preparation to play. The games will be so tough that winning is top of the agenda. Strategies are built around what’s needed to win the game. You do work on scenarios – if you’re in this situation and a bonus point is available, what do you need to do – maybe we need to adapt slightly the way we play just to finish the game in the manner we need, but first and foremost it’s about winning the game.
“It definitely helps in World Cup year, the mindset of the players, they get used to talking about that type of format. If you can go into any major tournament and replicate those scenrios it’ll benefit you for sure.”
Greig Laidlaw, captain of Scotland
“I think it’s good that we can score tries for sure but first and foremost you need to have the mindset that we have to win games and bonus points only come into the reckoning later in games, depending on how tight the score is. That’s where the captaincy comes in where you look at whether to take three points, and then bringing in the score difference.
“I think it will be good for the championship and will open it up and it can play into our hands potentially.”
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