'Crouch, bind, set' - Don't cheat
August 19, 2013
All eyes will be on the scrum this weekend © Getty Images
Though yet to be implemented in full, the new scrum protocol has been broadly welcomed by those who have at least trained using it. Hardly surprising, since it is universally agreed that the scrum has become a farce in recent seasons - refereed by guesswork, coached by cynics and executed by cheats. And, importantly, watched by increasingly exasperated fans who could often correctly predict the result of a match purely upon discovering the name of the referee. This is, according to Brian Moore, "our last chance to save the scrum".
From that position, almost any change must be for the better. But it is vital that all concerned buy into the changes. The fear is that it won't take long for teams to work out ways of bending the new laws to steal an advantage.
Top class rugby coaching is awash with ex-front row men hell-bent on cheating if it brings victory. Leicester's Richard Cockerill made his feelings towards spectators clear with his "If you want entertainment then go to the theatre" comment last season. He would do well to remember who pays him, even while he is suspended for a foul-mouthed tirade at an official.
The IRB needs to ensure that referees' interpretation of laws is kept to a minimum. While northern hemisphere referees go one way and southern hemisphere referees the other, international rugby will remain bewildered and not worth the price of a ticket.
Without tight definition, positive coaching and strict enforcement, these law changes will fail. The players must be kept in check by the officials from the start, with scrum feeds straight and no pushing until the ball is in. The ancient art of hooking will be re-born. It will take some getting used to, but since it's a change towards the way things were in the amateur days, perhaps some of the dinosaurs will understand it.
The column inches on the deterioration of the scrum are proportional to the game time wasted and the frustration felt all round. For all the talk of player welfare, the professional game is dicing with it's own welfare if the scrum is not thoroughly cleansed before the 2015 World Cup. £715 is a high price for a ticket to watch a referee decide the destiny of the Webb Ellis Cup.
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