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All Blacks legend Andrew Mehrtens has a radical plan to fix the time-consuming rugby crisis

Former All Blacks Andrew Mehrtens believes the introduction of timers and reducing halves to 30 minutes of effective play could solve rugby’s wasted time problem.

His comments came after the controversial end of the Australian-New Zealand rugby championship in Melbourne last week.

The Wallabies simmered after France referee Mathieu Raynal awarded a controversial penalty to Bernard Foley in the closing stages of the game, reversing a penalty he originally awarded the hosts.

Raynal pinged Foley for wasting time as the No. 10 Wallabies looked to kick the ball into touch with 80 minutes left on the clock and Australia led 37-34 at Marvel Stadium.

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

Raynal’s decision was branded “disgraceful” and angered Australia. Coach Dave Rennie said he had “never seen a call like that, at any level”.

Wallabies skipper Nic White told the referee it “cost them the rugby championship” while Foley denied he was wasting time on purpose and insisted he could not hear the referee due to the noise in the stadium.

And Mehrtens believes an overhaul of rugby’s timekeeping is long overdue and suggests the sport should ensure the ball was effectively in play for the duration of each half.

The game clock stops in rugby for injuries and decisions referred to the TV match officials, but continues to run if the umpire orders a scrum reset.

Conversely, AFL games, for example, last well over 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 game will degenerate into a much longer spectacle than we have at the moment,” Mehrtens told The Breakdown on Sky Sport New Zealand on Sunday night.

“So do the halves for 30 minutes each and stop the clock every time there’s a scrum set. The professional timekeeper restarts it when the ball is played at the end of the scrum.

“If there is a try, you stop the clock there and only start it again when the kick-off has taken place.

“If you cut it down to 30 minutes per half you still have the same amount of time for the people in the stadium and you get a much higher percentage of the ball in play.”

The 49-year-old, who won 70 caps for the All Blacks during his stellar career, suggested rugby should learn from other sports and introduce official timekeeping.

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

“Now they have a countdown, I think they have 30 seconds from the end of a point to serving at the next point.

“It’s out of the referee’s hands. There is a clock and you have to work on it. As a sport [rugby] could be a bit more professional.’

Meanwhile, Rugby Australia have written to World Rugby to formally complain about “overbearing officials” following last week’s controversy.

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

“It’s not unusual, we’ve been campaigning for this at World Rugby for some time,” added a spokesman.

The All Blacks and the Wallabies meet for the second Bledisloe Test in Auckland on Saturday, with the New Zealanders needing a win to clinch the rugby championship.

New Zealand and South Africa lead the table by 14 points each, with the All Blacks 13 points ahead of the Springboks, who host Argentina in Durban later on Saturday.

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