Nick Mallett believes the introduction of bonus points in the RBS Six Nations will help avoid the “boring” matches that disfigured the start of last season’s championship that ended in Grand Slam glory for England.
Mallett, the former South Africa and Italy coach, is now one of the game’s most respected analysts and with bonus points for four tries and being within seven points or fewer when losing a match, he expects to see more tries and less negative rugby. While traditionalist have bemoaned the arrival of bonus points for the tournament, Mallett is adamant the move is a positive step forward.
Mallett said: “I really don’t believe there is any harm to bonus points becoming part of the Six Nations and it will encourage teams to score more points and also to keep battling for the whole match which brings more value to the spectator and those watching on television.
“The 2015 World Cup was a very good tournament played in pretty good weather in England and the rugby played by the teams that got to the end of the Cup was really good. There was lots of ball in hand and try scoring. When the Six Nations was played the weather had changed, the players had gone back to their clubs and been coached stodgy rugby with double shove scrums and lets kick to the corner. The whole pace of the game dropped by 30 per cent and the first couple of weekends of the Six Nations were disappointing.
“ The rugby was boring and you have to accept that the weather did have an effect and I believe the bonus points system will encourage teams to play for the full 80 mins. If you are a powerful side and get ahead by 12 points then it is possible to close down the game by just keeping possession and not even trying to score a try in the last 15mins. Now, with the bonus points on offer, it will be bring real value to attacking play and provide an incentive to a losing team to narrow the gap and aim for a bonus point.
“Let’s take for example the last match of the championship with Ireland at home to England this season. If England have one more bonus point that Ireland and both have won four games then suddenly, Ireland are thinking is the win enough? They won’t want England to get a losing bonus point and throw a curve ball in there. “
The Rugby Football Union opted to give Stuart Lancaster the head coach role instead of Mallett in 2012, who was part of a double act featuring New Zealand’s Wayne Smith. After a failed 2015 World Cup, Lancaster lost his job and Eddie Jones became the “non-English” option many had hoped Mallett would have become four years earlier. Mallett, the Richmond forward, is not bitter and acknowledged the work Lancaster did during his tenure.
He explained: “You have to remember that England finished second four years in a row under Lancaster and while they were always up there, they just couldn’t take that step to become the No1 team and more than anything it is an attitude thing.
“Another important aspect is that the players under Lancaster were 22 and 23 years old and now they are 25-27 with more experience and confidence. Many of them have enjoyed success in European Cup coming from good teams and so they come into the England team having won titles with Saracens and that breeds confidence. Eddie Jones has done well and when I didn’t get the England job I decided to enjoy my rugby away from the stresses of coaching.
“I love the work I do on television and with Accenture and so instead of going bald or even greyer. I am no longer sitting on the edge of my seat as a coach being stressed.”
Mallett will be keeping a close eye on Italy, who start at home to Wales, and besides having coached that country in the Six Nations he is also keen to see what effect fellow South African Brendan Venter has on the Azzuri defence.
Venter has been appointed as defence coach by Conor O’Shea, the new head coach, and Mallett said:” It is fantastic for Italy and for Brendan. It is not only Brendan’s technical ability, it is also the way he creates a family atmosphere and we saw that while he was with Saracens. The Sarries defence has become a bench mark in the game.”