The failure of scrums to fulfil its purpose and the continual resetting and penalties given as a result of the scrum may lead to a possible rugby league scrum.
This is where the ball is put in quickly and has no meaning like the traditional rugby union scrum with forwards contesting their strength and technique to outdo each other; but instead allowed to go quickly for the backs to run with it.
Here is a story from Planet Rugby suggesting ways to deal with the scrum:
Changes to the Laws of the Game are being tested but they do not concern the scrum which has had only a change in setting procedure in very recent times.
Let’s see if we can come up with some suggestions for changes.
The scrum is still beset by resets.
There are many occasions when unnatural endings to scrums – resets, penalties and free kicks – outnumber the natural, desired outcome of a scrum – the emergence of the ball so that play may continue happily.
There is no clear indication that this change in setting procedure has improved matters. In the first three weeks there have been 51 scrums with 23 resets, 9 free kicks and two penalties.
The scrums have collapsed 17 times. 45% of scrums were reset, 33% collapsed.
There were unnatural endings to scrums 34 times – 67% of the time.
More unnatural endings than natural endings. Mind you, the Tri-Nations has been better than some.
When Argentina played Ireland there were 23 scrums with 17 resets, 3 free kicks and 2 penalties.The scrums collapsed 16 times. When Argentina played Italy, there were 20 scrums with 15 resets, six free kicks and 3 penalties. The scrums collapsed 23 times. In those two matches there were 43 scrums with 32 resets, 9 free kicks and 5 penalties. The scrums collapsed 39 times.
Unnatural endings actually outnumbered natural endings.In addition to the onfield problems there are the slanging matches off the field. BJ Botha scrums illegally.
Matt Dunning is not strong enough.
Al Baxter is not strong enough.
The Wallabies cheat on the engagement.
Then the Wallabies “rush” the scrum.
The All Blacks move early.
And so on.
This week’s match is back in the Land of the Dropping Scrum, and it is no different.
Again there is a call on the referee.
The referee, who does not collapse scrums, can only react when something goes wrong and it seems he is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t.
The commonest accusation is that he does not know what is going on.
He may be one of the top in his profession in the world, have made a serious study of the workings of scrums, be in an excellent position to see what is happening but it remains an accusation that he does not know what is going on, is guessing.
As far as can be worked out no experiments are to be made for scrumming changes.
So presumably the present situation will persist – the boring repetition of scrums being reset over and over.
Perhaps the attitude is that there are fewer scrums to worry about and so the tackle is more urgently addressed because it is an area of many penalties, many seen as arbitrary interpretations instead of objective applications.
Change the laws and you change the game.
Change the scrumming laws and you change scrumming. So we need to tread warily, but here are three suggestions that are part radical, part reactionary.1. Digging up the Past
Talk to old props and they will tell you that there were few collapsed scrums in their uncomfortable days when the laws were less protective and so strength and, above all, technique really mattered.
In those days it was tough to be a loosehead – fighting for the grip, battling to keep the scrum up for the hooker who hung on you, battling to ward off the mean and nasty tighthead who wanted to get you down and get into your vulnerable rib cage.
And at the same time you had to close the scrum.
To the old men loosehead propping is a sinecure. Now tighthead props are in short supply.
The first big difference then was that hookers hooked. Honour for a hooker was a tighthead.
So the hooker whose ball it was twisted to get his hooking foot, his right foot, in the best place to get at the ball.
The other hooker twisted away so that he could get his nearer foot, also the right, to flick at the ball.
Now people do not hook. Tightheads are accidents of ricochet or being shoved to smithereens.
To encourage hooking, three laws – still extant, believe it or not – need to be applied.
The ball will be put in straight, nobody will lift a foot till it is on the way in and the hooker was not to hit the ball in the air.
Those three things – and a scrum that is square and stationary before the ball is put in.
In those days of hooking hookers, the loosehead on his ball would close the scrum to help the hooker, which meant that he had a left foot forward.
On the other hand the tighthead would have his right foot forward to help his hooker.
There was thus less power.
That’s fairly reactionary stuff!
2. Six of the best
This suggestion is that the procedure for setting the scrum undergo a radical revamp.
First the six front row players hit in.
Then the referee invites the other forwards to pack.
Then the scrumhalf puts the ball in and shoving commences.
This could make for safer scrumming and at the same times needs big strong men up front to control matters.
3. Shame them
If the scrum needs to be reset and there is no penalty or free kick, then the reset scrum becomes an uncontested scrum.
The penalty or the free kick remains the first option, and surely rugby players are not so feeble that they would settle for uncontested scrums. The fear is that the referees will settle for the effete option of a reset scrum.
Caption: Fiji’s forwards contest a scrum against Australia A at the national stadium in Suva. Photo: GREG TAYLOR