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Are scrum laws ruining the game?

Written by Greg Kaos (gregkaos)

Posted in :Original Content, Reader Submissions on 10 Sep 2014 at 11:47
Tagged with : , , , ,

I’m not having a go at refs in this article, despite what I perceived as an exceptionally poor weekend of officiating, but rather musing on the impossible job they have to carry out. There were a few completely wrong calls that should never have happened, considering the technology available, but my main area of concern is around scum time. They say only the front row really understand what’s going on, so why force someone who can’t possibly know exactly what is happening decide who was in the wrong?

The laws created around this aspect of the game are siphoning the soul out of what many of us consider the greatest sport on the planet. Scrums are such a unique part of Rugby where all the heavies are guaranteed to be concentrated in one spot, however the overzealous protection is unfortunately having the opposite effect it was intended. It’s tiring seeing penalty after penalty been awarded seemingly at random at scrums. These laws were put in place to try and dissuade players from using various tactics to disrupt the scrums.

The scrum is no longer the contest it is supposed to be, but rather a platform to milk a penalty. This is a direct result of applying laws far too harsh for the crime. Given the option of a scrum or a penalty, a team will take the penalty almost every time. Now, I don’t claim to know what goes on in a front row battle, but aren’t there counter actions props can take when someone is scrumming inwards, hinging, etc? With points or huge territorial gain on offer it’s in the best interests to make it look like the other guy infringed instead of countering. The effect is that front rows are becoming experts in manipulating the refs rather than experts in the actual contest for the ball. The best illusionists reap the rewards and the plaudits.

A knee jerk reaction to fixing an issue like this would most likely be enforcing even stricter laws in an attempt to scare players from breaking them. What I believe should happen is the near total eradication of penalties at scrum time unless actual blatant fouls are committed. Scrums need an advantage system just like the rest of the game. How infuriating is it to you guys when the ball is available but someone slipped and we have to endure a reset or a coin flip penalty? Is the reward for a dominant scrum either putting the opposition on the back foot and or getting clean ball to launch an attack from not enough? No need to have the ref rub salt in a weak pack’s wounds and denying the backs the opportunity to have a go.

Oh, and just let the scrum-half put the ball in not so straight; minimum the hooker must hook the ball. This is hardly ever reffed right, as the poor guy in the middle has enough to worry about than this inconsequential infringement. If the 9 is blatantly taking the mickey, then maybe a warning that it will be a scrum reversal next time…? Even better, let a line judge keep an eye on that aspect. One less thing for the main guy to worry about.

It is all too much for a single human to properly make calls on. The human brain can only forcibly focus on one thing at a time, and at scrum time there are too many things happening simultaneously that require the ref to be paying attention on to make an informed call. These calls are frustrating the players, coaches, and most importantly, the fans. Give a thought to the refs who constantly see themselves as the villains each weekend because they have to make these impossible calls.

Without penalties on offer at scrum time, there are far less reasons to play negatively to win one. If the object of a scrum is to get the ball back as cleanly as possible and not have a reversal, or to put the opponents on the back foot or win a reversal, then surely that is what our big guys will be more inclined to do.


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