The South Terrace is a new series from The East Terrace editor James Stafford (@jpstafford), taking a less satirical look at the game
The decision of the Six Nations Council to abruptly announce the introduction of bonus points to the Six Nations in 2017 has got quite the conversation going in rugby circles.
We’ll leave wisdom of introducing bonus points into a short format tournament that isn’t played on a home and away basis (as well as having an uneven split in the home and away match allocation) for another column on another day.
What’s immensely irritating - and hugely distracting to the debate - is the proliferation of ‘retro tables’ that have appeared to look back at what would have happened if previous championships had been played under the new points system.
The BBC were just one of many outlets to draw up a table - reinterpreting the 2015 championship as it would have looked under the new bonus point system. Pundit Arena ran a piece looking at an alternate reality stretching from 2012 under the new rules. Imaging how (hypothetically) it could have saved Stuart Lancaster’s skin and put Joe Schmidt under pressure.
The thing is, none of this makes any logical sense. Because if bonus points had been introduced back then the games would have been played differently and had different outcomes (isn’t that the very point of bonus points?).
Teams would have aimed for bonus points from the off. Tactics and strategies would have diverged from the ones implemented in reality in 2015. As the championship progressed the balance of points in the table would have had impacted the mentality players took into games and changed the pressure points on teams and coaches. All of which would have led to different match day decisions and actions. And each change would have led to another change. A kind of rugby butterfly effect.
The myth of the missed kick
Going back to an existing set of results and calculating a bonus point scenario shows only a lack of understanding of how tournament rules influence matches (and puts a serious question mark over one’s suitability to debate the whole bonus point system in the first place).
It’s similar to the nonsense too often spouted by pundits (who should know better) when a player misses a series of kicks in an important match. How frequently do we hear experts tells us that if a player had hit those five penalties then his team would have had another fifteen points and won the game?
That too is perverse logic. Because once the first kicked sailed over we would have had a kick-off follow, rather than a drop out 22 or kick to touch from the defending team. Consequently, the rest of the match would not have turned out the same way and the other four missed kicks would not have occurred.
So can we stop with the retro Six Nations tables? It makes as much sense as rugby’s disciplinary system.
Let’s instead look forward the 2016 championship and see how the bonus point system works. Then we can all build hypothetical tables demonstrating what would have happened under the old system...no, wait!
Make it stop, please.