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.