Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the kitchen, along comes the rugby authorities to deliver what are either master strokes that will save our sport, or yet another set of nails in the coffin of our glorious game.

For some time now there has been a conspiracy theory doing the rounds that the Dublin O’Mafia resident at World Rugby’s headquarters have been trying to cut the number of players and make the game more like rugby league with a view to an amalgamation of the two sports – bastardisation, I would call it.

Then came the astonishing announcement at the weekend that the Welsh Rugby Union are going to allow clubs to compete with as few as 12 players on each side – not the professional clubs, of course, but down the leagues where there is a perceived problem of fixtures not being fulfilled.

What the hell is going on with our Celtic cousins? Have they taken leave of their senses or is this some sort of sinister softening up approach towards the rugby league merger?

Not at all, in fact it’s a pragmatic solution to a problem that affects Scottish rugby as well – there are simply not enough players to fulfil fixtures and at least the Welsh have had the bottle to tackle the issue.

Yet it is surely worrying that the number of players on the field can be reduced willy-nilly to even less than the 13-a-side in rugby league.

Don’t get me wrong – take the best elements of league and union and leave out the annoying “slowdown” bits like scrums, line-outs, and penalties that take for ever, and you might even make a good sport out of it. You could even call it rugby…

Yet the elements that make league and union separate entities are part of the ethos, the culture, of both sports, and any further erosion of what makes union the sport of rugby union would be anathema to the majority of people who play it.

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Which is why the more worrying announcement recently was the introduction from next month of “shot clocks”. From January 1, explained the BBC’s rules expert: “The ‘shot clock’ means players will have 90 seconds to take a conversion and a minute for penalties, or the kick will be disallowed. New rules also state scrums have to be started within 30 seconds and line-outs formed without delay, with penalty kicks to be given for time-wasting.”

This is not a new development. They have had shot clocks in the French league for some time and at the very least they get crowd involvement as they bellow out the numbers ticking down. Now the system is to be extended globally and I applaud World Rugby for trying to do something about the fact that spectators pay large sums to see often many less minutes of action than we used to get.

There is no doubt that World Rugby have been reacting to complaints from their paymasters, the broadcasters, as you can see from this quote by World Rugby’s director of rugby, Phil Davies, who said: “World Rugby, member unions and competitions will work with broadcasters and match hosts to implement on-screen [stadia and broadcast] shot clocks for penalties and conversions to ensure referees, players and fans can view the countdown, mirroring what happens in the LNR [French national league] and sevens.”

Yet it’s one more example of the glaring differences that now exist between the professional level and the amateur game. It’s almost as if they have become two different sports. Sure the elite professional clubs can afford big clocks in

their stadia, but are good community clubs like Cartha Queen’s Park, Lismore and Loch Lomond going to have to stump up for shot clocks?

I don’t think so, and once again it will be down to the watches and guesswork of referees to implement these new changes.

World Rugby must tackle the real timekeeping problems, which are the delays at kicks and scrums. The time it takes to set up a penalty these days is considerably more than it took back in the good old days of amateurism.

That’s because back then there wasn’t so much money pressure on kickers. Yet you rarely see referees implement the time limits on kicks, so maybe shot clocks will do the trick.

As for scrum delays? I’ll believe this new 30-second limit when I see it, because these days the scrum has been weaponised as a way to win penalties rather than re-start a match.

What World Rugby must stop doing is interfering with the laws of the game for a considerable period to come. I would suggest three years as a minimum.

The reason for that is that there have been so many changes to the laws in recent years that you almost require a degree in jurisprudence to follow the game these days.

As Elvis Presley didn’t say we need a little less conversation and much more inaction please.