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All Blacks great Andrew Mehrtens comes up with a radical plan to fix rugby’s time-wasting crisis

Former All Blacks Andrew Mehrtens believes the introduction of timekeepers and shortening halves to 30 minutes of effective play could solve the problem of time-wasting in rugby.

His comments came in the wake of last week’s controversial end to the Rugby Championship between Australia and New Zealand in Melbourne.

The Wallabies were left seething after French referee Mathieu Raynal sparked uproar and controversially penalized fly-half Bernard Foley in the closing stages of the game, overturning a penalty he had originally awarded the hosts.

French referee Mathieu Raynal's controversial decision to penalize Bernard Foley (right) cost the Wallabies a Bledisloe victory after their heroic comeback against the All Blacks last week
French referee Mathieu Raynal's controversial decision to penalize Bernard Foley (right) cost the Wallabies a Bledisloe victory after their heroic comeback against the All Blacks last week

French referee Mathieu Raynal’s controversial decision to penalize Bernard Foley (right) cost the Wallabies a Bledisloe victory after their heroic comeback against the All Blacks last week

Raynal flagged Foley for time wasting as the Wallabies No10 was about to kick the ball into touch with 80 minutes on the clock and Australia leading 37-34 at Marvel Stadium.

The All Blacks were instead awarded a scrum five meters out and Jordie Barrett crossed in the corner for a 39-37 victory to deny Australia the Bledisloe Cup.

Raynal’s decision was branded ‘shameful’ and angered Australia, with coach Dave Rennie saying he had ‘never seen a call like it, at any level’.

Wallabies captain Nic White told the referee he had ‘cost them the rugby championship’, while Foley denied he was deliberately wasting time and insisted he could not hear the referee because of the noise inside the stadium.

Foley (left) was penalized for time-wasting just as he was about to kick the ball into contact with the Wallabies leading 37-34 with 80 minutes on the clock.
Foley (left) was penalized for time-wasting just as he was about to kick the ball into contact with the Wallabies leading 37-34 with 80 minutes on the clock.

Foley (left) was penalized for time-wasting just as he was about to kick the ball into contact with the Wallabies leading 37-34 with 80 minutes on the clock.

But the All Blacks were awarded a scrum five meters out, allowing Jordie Barrett to score the match-sealing try long after time had expired.
But the All Blacks were awarded a scrum five meters out, allowing Jordie Barrett to score the match-sealing try long after time had expired.

But the All Blacks were awarded a scrum five meters out, allowing Jordie Barrett to score the match-sealing try long after time had expired.

Barrett's try saw the All Blacks win 39-37 as they retained the Bledisloe Cup
Barrett's try saw the All Blacks win 39-37 as they retained the Bledisloe Cup

Barrett’s try saw the All Blacks win 39-37 as they retained the Bledisloe Cup

And Mehrtens believes an overhaul of how time was monitored in rugby is long overdue, suggesting the sport needs to ensure the ball was effectively in play during each half.

The game clock stops in rugby for injuries and decisions referred to the televised match referee, but continues to run when the referee orders a scrum reset.

Conversely, AFL games, for example, last far longer than 80 minutes to ensure the ball is effectively in play for 20 minutes in each of the four quarters.

“If you start stopping the clock here and there, the fight will blow out into a much longer spectacle than we have at the moment,” Mehrtens told The Breakdown on Sky Sport New Zealand on Sunday night.

Andrew Mehrtens (left) has called for World Rugby to implement official timekeepers
Andrew Mehrtens (left) has called for World Rugby to implement official timekeepers

Andrew Mehrtens (left) has called for World Rugby to implement official timekeepers

‘Then make the halves 30 minutes each and stop the clock every time there is a scrum set. The professional timer restarts it when the ball is played at the back of the scrum.

‘If there’s a try, you stop the clock there and you don’t restart it until the kickoff is taken.

‘If you bring it down to 30 minutes a half, you’ll still get the same amount of time for people in the stadium and you’ll get a much higher proportion of the ball in play.’

The 49-year-old, who won 70 caps for the All Blacks during a stellar career, suggested rugby should take a leaf from other sports and implement official timekeepers.

Wallabies boss Dave Rennie said he had 'never seen a call like that, at any level'
Wallabies boss Dave Rennie said he had 'never seen a call like that, at any level'

Wallabies boss Dave Rennie said he had ‘never seen a call like that, at any level’

‘Look at tennis. One of the ways players can slow down tennis is between points, especially on the serve, he said.

‘Now they’ve got a countdown, I think they have 30 seconds from the end of one point to get the serve on the next point.

‘It’s taken out of the referee’s hands. There is a clock and you have to work according to it. Like a sport [rugby] could be a little more professional about it.’

Meanwhile, Rugby Australia has written to World Rugby to formally complain about ‘overbearing officials’ in the wake of last week’s controversy.

Rugby Australia has written to World Rugby to formally complain about 'overbearing officials'
Rugby Australia has written to World Rugby to formally complain about 'overbearing officials'

Rugby Australia has written to World Rugby to formally complain about ‘overbearing officials’

Rugby Australia said its letter to the sport’s governing body was not specifically about Raynal’s decision, but more generally about “the state of the game today and the overbearing nature of rules and officials”.

“It is not unusual, we have been lobbying World Rugby for some time on this,” added a spokesman.

The All Blacks and Wallabies meet for the second Bledisloe Test in Auckland on Saturday, with New Zealand needing a win to win the Rugby Championship.

New Zealand and South Africa lead the table with 14 points each, with the All Blacks on top with a 13-point advantage over the Springboks, who visit Argentina in Durban later on Saturday.

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