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Scrum nonsense

By Leipziger
July 21 2016

I’ve shouted “Ref, if he doesn’t want to scrum, send him off and they can bring on someone who will!” at games so often that it’s now become a catchphrase that someone hit me with on Twitter a few months ago.

But in my opinion, that’s where the whole problem with the scrum lies: cheating players. The lawmakers have messed about with rules and processes – though binding before the ‘hit’ seems to have brought about an improvement – but the problems remain. The problems remain because the core issue hasn’t been tackled.


Carl Hayman once said something like “It wouldn’t matter if they shouted ‘Crouch, pause, tiddlywinks’”. I take that to mean that the processes aren’t the problem, which leaves us with the players. Referees are criticised and certainly a lot seem to guess what’s going on, but I’ve never seen a referee pull a scrum down or collapse because of poor technique – that’s always down to the players.


At the end of April I watched Kendal v Kirkby Lonsdale in North 1 West, the sixth level of the game. On a pitch that was admittedly quite dry, but then softer than usual too because the area was flooded a few months ago, the (amateur) players on the field needed maybe two scrum resets in the whole eighty minutes.


The following day I watched Saracens v Newcastle on the TV. A game played on a 3G artificial pitch, between ‘professional’ players (one set of which is the best in the land) and the same scrum problems that blight the game at the highest level were evident again. The same thing happened when the Falcons played Sale at KP on the final day of the Premiership season.


Towards the end of the season, I had a chat with a Falcons supporter who gets to Darlington Mowden Park sometimes, and her findings were the same as mine at Kendal – amateur players on a grass pitch, but far fewer problems in the scrum than between professional players even on an artificial pitch.


This leads me to the conclusion that the players are responsible for the problems. In some ways you can’t blame them – if your scrum is dominant, take your opponent down and you’re likely to get a penalty. If you’re under pressure, go down and take the risk of conceding a penalty because maybe you’ll actually win one.


Players need to remember however that they are in the entertainment business, and current audience levels are not sufficient to sustain the business model, particularly if the BT Sport bubble were to burst (remember ITV Digital?). Five minutes of collapsing scrums, three or four times in a match, is a turnoff for a potential new supporter.


I don’t expect anything to change soon, but since we need articles over the summer and I’ve been thinking about this for a while, I just wanted to get this rant out. Thank you.

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Scrum nonsense (IP Logged)
21/07/2016 07:25
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Re: Scrum nonsense
trummy200 (IP Logged)
21/07/2016 10:11
I would suggest the real cause is the high intensity coaching. The front row know the strengths and weakness of the opposition and have strategies on how to deal with them before they even take to the pitch.With most matches having been recorded it is easy to study the opposition prior to the match and play accordingly.

Re: Scrum nonsense
Monkey1 (IP Logged)
22/07/2016 11:44
They also study the referees, and plan a strategy to get the most from the combination of opposition & ref. No matter what you do it will never change. As Leipy says, tinkering with the rules won't stop players from trying to get away with cheating. It is like farting in a cheese shop, it isn't the root cause of the problem.

Re: Scrum nonsense
DJMC (IP Logged)
22/07/2016 14:45
The constant resetting of scrums is a blight on the professional game but I don't think anyone would want to see it go down the route of rugby league. Perhaps not so much time and effort would be wasted if any misdemeanors were only rewarded with a free kick rather than penalties.

Re: Scrum nonsense
pa8 (IP Logged)
22/07/2016 16:52
Or maybe apply some common sense and refs might see that maybe, just maybe, it's really hard to go backwards at a rate of knots without falling down, esp when the players are in a propping position.
it shouldn't always be a penalty, but then you're relying on referees, who can't even spot a squint line out throw or feed at the scrum, to get it right.

Re: Scrum nonsense
Kwa444 (IP Logged)
24/07/2016 09:14
Yep that's true - the amount of skew throws I've seen even when the ref and touch judge should see them beggars belief. I don't recollect seeing a straight put in to a @#$%& last season - they should just remove the law.

As to collapses, the referee shouldn't be allowed to reset - he should only have the option of awarding a penalty or free kick. If a mutual collapse the a free kick to the side putting in. If liability is evident then a penalty against the guilty party. I think a lot more scrums would prove effective.

Re: Scrum nonsense
Monkey1 (IP Logged)
24/07/2016 09:32
There is no law requiring straight feeds into scrums, that is a tired old myth. From memory I think the ball has to touch one side of the tunnel, which means the SH is perfectly entitled to twang it off the leg of any front rower as he puts it in.

As for line outs, I have seen plenty penalised as not straight so the referees must have some demarcation between a bit squiff but acceptable, and deliberately thrown not straight.

Re: Scrum nonsense
bulmer22 (IP Logged)
24/07/2016 12:22
Scrum half must throw the ball straight along the middle line of the scrum. Law 20.6(d). The ref can stand at either side of the scrum. So no excuse for not seeing a crooked feed.

Refs just keep ignoring this law, yet will penalise a hooker for throwing in not straight at a line out. Very frustrating that refs can pick and choose which laws of the game to enforce.

Re: Scrum nonsense
pa8 (IP Logged)
24/07/2016 15:14
Law 20.6
(d) The scrum half must throw in the ball straight along the middle line, so that it first touches the ground immediately beyond the width of the nearer propís shoulders.
Sanction: Free Kick

Direct quote from the latest edition of rugby's tired old myths.

Re: Scrum nonsense
Monkey1 (IP Logged)
24/07/2016 17:54
I sit down corrected.

Re: Scrum nonsense
citizen-slacker (IP Logged)
24/07/2016 22:03
There is also the issue of where some refs mark the "mark". At lower levels the mark tends to be a line parallel to the front rows, indicating where the ball is to go, where as top end refs draw the line from hooker to hooker so as long as the ball hits that mark it is deemed to be a straight put in.

Re: Scrum nonsense
Leipziger (IP Logged)
25/07/2016 07:27
Wonky put-ins at scrums have never bothered me, simply because referees never penalise anybody for it so it's not biased towards certain teams. Just scrap this rule and everyone knows where they are.

Not everyone's like that though. I remember a reserve game at Northampton a few years ago, there was a gentleman sitting near me who screamed at the referee at every scrum (well, every Falcons scrum anyway) that the ball didn't go in straight. I couldn't believe he was getting so worked up about it, when a) Saints were doing the exact same thing and b) I don't think it makes that much impact on the game.

Just to complete the story, this guy's crowning glory was shouting sarcastically "We'd be lost without you, ref!" I thought: "Without the referee we wouldn't have a game to watch, mate, and you'd have to sit at home watching Eastenders and Corrie, shouting abuse at the actors at your TV."

Re: Scrum nonsense
Gray_Lensman (IP Logged)
25/07/2016 10:01
The thing is that allowing a not straight put in at the scrum has a profound effect on the game because it means that forwards are allowed to get away with technique that would have been horribly exposed in the past. Currently if a straight put in is actually enforced or just happens by accident then the ball will typically sit in the middle of the tunnel with both packs quivering under the tension or it will just drift tamely out the other side. For a number of reasons hookers at the top of the game are utterly unable to hook and the feed has to be squint for the scrum to actually function as a way of restarting the game. Or as a mechanism for generating penalties which is what it has become.

Now if we actually apply the law as it is written instead of ignoring it then the technique and physique of forwards would have to fundamentally change and maybe rugby union would revert to being a game for all shapes and sizes. You would certainly see a de-powering of the scrum with some differentiation in size between hookers and props and you'd have to get a properly bound pack that would free up space in the rest of the pitch. A proper contest for the ball, fewer resets and more space. What's not to like?

Re: Scrum nonsense
Monkey1 (IP Logged)
25/07/2016 11:11
Or as a mechanism for generating penalties which is what it has become.

Indeed. It is a rare sight these days to see the ball come out in the hands of a No8 on a mission, instead we get reset after reset, eventually resulting in a penalty. The scrum has become a power contest with no more objective than winning penalties. A return to a contest of skill to restart the game would be very welcome.

As the man said, what's not to like?

Re: Scrum nonsense
Almostan Oldgit (IP Logged)
25/07/2016 12:01
Totally agree Lensman, and disagree Leipy; if the laws were applied it would fundamentally change the game, in a positive manner, back to where hookers had to strike and props had to support and protect them. The current focus on penalty winning, whilst I think is overplayed in the media, is definitely a less attractive and purposeful part of the game than the "old" way.

Re: Scrum nonsense
Flumpty (IP Logged)
25/07/2016 14:59
On that Happy, Happy Day at Mint Bridge when Kendal secured promotion against Kirkby Lonsdale, the stability in the scrum may have had something to do with the appearence of Richard Harryman in the Kendal front row !

Although in fairness, collapsing scrums isn't something that seems to blight the game at Kendals level.

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