There are some huge Champions Cup matches this weekend that will go a long way to deciding the quarter-final make-up: Glasgow v Munster, Wasps v Toulouse and Bordeaux v Clermont. You can be sure that at least one of those will come down to the wire.

In those last five minutes with the result on the line, the game tends to be decided by which team manage the clock better. Yet in general the time-management ability of rugby teams is very poor. I have lost count of the number of games I have seen over the years where a team are trailing by one score in the closing minutes and players are ambling over to a scrum or chewing the fat as they decide what to do with a penalty. I feel like screaming: "Do you realise the clock is ticking?"

The classic example was England's World Cup defeat by Wales. Without wishing to re-examine the rights or many wrongs of Chris Robshaw's decision to kick to the corner, the single greatest failing was the amount of time it took to come to that ill-fated decision. The forwards then pottered over to the corner like a group of pensioners taking a seaside walk. All the time the clock was ticking and potential opportunities to regain possession disappearing.

Every second is crucial. Watching the NFL play-offs last weekend re-emphasised how far ahead American football is in this regard. In tight games, you frequently see the lead changing hands three or four times in the last five minutes. Great quarterbacks such as Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady are experts in making use of every single second. They know exactly how long is left, how long each play will take and what the clock would look like in each scenario.


I appreciate the sports operate on different systems, but the principle remains the same. If you are trailing by four points in the last five minutes, do not take two minutes to make a decision or 90 seconds to take a penalty. Go for goal, if you miss it you get to contest a 22 drop-out. If you kick to the corner, sprint to the corner.

Managing the clock is not just the players' responsibility but the officials' as well. Too often we see referees fail to stop the clock while nothing is happening or allowing teams to waste as much time as they like ambling around getting ready for a scrum or line-out.

Allowing teams to take a line-out after the clock has gone past 80 minutes is a step in the right direction, even if Connacht took advantage of that law prematurely a couple of weeks back against Wasps, but I would like to see World Rugby do more in this area.

There has been a lot of discussion this week around World Rugby's decision to amend the high-tackle regulations but the single best way to aid player welfare would be to reduce the size of players. How do you do that? By increasing the ball-in-play time, which would in turn speed up the game.

So I would give players the power to stop the clock at set-pieces, where so much time is eaten up. Similar to what they do in rugby league, the moment your scrum is formed then the clock stops. Same with the line-out. This would encourage forwards to sprint to form the set-piece and prevent the opposition from time-wasting and then going through the interminable process of binding, collapsing and resetting.