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    Scrum in crisis?

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2013...ion?CMP=twt_gu

    The once-revered scrum has become a mess, yielding little but penalties, delay and confusion – something needs to be done
    Gloucester's Ben Morgan passes to Jimmy Cowans from the back of a scrum at Leicester. Photograph: David Jones/PA

    The early days of a new year are a time for resolutions, and it is high time for a resolution to the problem that the scrum has become in the professional game, a mess of resets, free-kicks and penalties: statistics show that below the top end, both at club and international level, the scrum is a far more effective means of restarting play.
    Ever since the law changed so that backs were required to stand five metres back from a scrum, defending teams have sought ways to deny the attacking team quick ball; conceding a penalty or, especially, a free-kick is deemed a price worth paying.
    Gloucester gave away 10 penalties at the scrum against Leicester last weekend and they continued to infringe even after losing a prop to the sin-bin. Another should have followed, but referees seem concerned at the impact of playing a forward short in a scrum would have on a side already struggling in the set-piece.
    One answer may be to force teams who lose a prop to the sin-bin to pack down with eight players at a scrum: many teams already do so on their own put-in – Gloucester put Mike Tindall at wing forward on their feed at Leicester – but not when they are defending. It would add to the deterrence value of a yellow card.
    When Harlequins were at Northampton last month, they pushed the home scrum back some 10 metres in the opening minutes. How would Northampton, a team that prides itself on forward power, respond? The next four scrums resulted in free-kicks for early engagement, two for each side, and what should have been one of the pivotal areas of the game became a victim of the referee's whistle and a means for yet more kicking.
    Concerns about safety over the years have made referees wary. They could blow at every scrum for a crooked feed, but act only if a scrum has gone down or is in danger of doing so. The days when hookers competed for the ball are long gone, but what sort of game is it when a team is blown for a crooked lineout throw only for the opposing scrum-half at the resulting scrum to be allowed to get away with putting the ball under the body of one of his second rows?
    The Saracens director of rugby, Mark McCall, said last season that he hardly bothered working moves from scrums because the average match yielded little possession from the set-piece and this week the Worcester head coach Richard Hill, a scrum-half in his playing days, revealed his despair at what had happened to one of the game's staples.
    "It is very frustrating, I really don't know what is going on," Hill told the Worcester Evening News. "How many times can a team get a three-quarters move from a scrum? We hardly ever work on moves from a scrum because you just don't get them. Every scrum is a free-kick, a penalty or a complete mess: it's so hard and I have no idea why. I think it started when the health and safety hit us with this "crouch, touch, pause, engage" nonsense. Every time a scrum goes down, the referee has to reset. In the old days, if it went down, you just used to play on.
    "It drives me up the wall when free-kick after free-kick is given. If a scrum is dominant and one team is clearly shunting the other back, I don't think you can argue if they concede a penalty. When the scrum just goes down without either side going forward, then how can anybody tell why it has gone down? The only people who know are the front rows — referees, the touch-judges and coaches don't know — it is just those six blokes who will know who's done what. So, don't blow for a free-kick, just let the game flow and it would be a much better game if we just did that. The whole idea of a scrum is to keep 16 forwards in a huddle so there is a bit more space to play."
    Hill called for a change in the law, something that would have to happen before September because nothing new is introduced by the International Rugby Board less than two years before a World Cup. Various working parties have looked at the vexed issue, but have come up with nothing more than dropping the word pause from the crouch/engage call.
    The scrum needs looking at because, with teams rarely kicking for touch any more unless they have been awarded a penalty, rugby union is revolving around the breakdown, meaning backs rarely run against backs with attacking teams facing a straight line of defenders; skill levels, such as passing and handling, have suffered. So even though ball-in-play time tends to increase every season, games at the top tend to be decided by a mistake rather than a moment of inspiration.
    Directors of rugby tend to preface after-match comments by saying how hard their players have been working in training, but on what. Physique and stamina seem to have become far more important commodities than skill and a look at the meetings between the leading teams in the Premiership season show how sides tend to cancel each other out with tries at a premium.
    The scrum should be looked at as a matter of urgency. Rugby union should be about diversity, not homogeneity. As Hill said: "There has to be a change to the laws because it is a lottery at the moment: you that you might as well toss a coin to decide what happens at a scrum. One week you will do one thing in the scrum and not get penalised, but the next week you will do exactly the same and get penalised. You always think there will be a free-kick here but you have no idea who it is going to go to. Let the game flow."
    When I enter the Millennium Stadium next Saturday I will be wearing my red jersey. The colour of blood, of pride, of raw meat, of bitter tears. The colour of victory and defeat, of loyalty, of love, of fear, of life and death. The colour of Munster.

    #2
    It's actually improved since - crouch, touch, pause, engage. It's still a messy area though, and lots of refs can't work out who is doing what in awarding penalties.

    p.s. Nor can most pundits.
    Yorn desh born, der ritt de gitt der gue,
    Orn desh, dee born desh, de umn bork! bork! bork!

    Comment


      #3
      What's more important, the scrum itself or the flow of the game?

      If the former then all you can do is make small adjustments, eg ensuring the binds are correct say by bringing a linesman in on the ref's blind side.

      If the flow of the game is more important then just ditch the scrum and cut the teams by two players each to make sure the game flows.

      Then everyone can move on to complaining that the breakdown is a mess, and there's an answer for that too.
      Munster – Champions of Europe 2006, 2008, 2019.

      Comment


        #4
        Take the hit out of the scrum and you take away most of the messing. Let the two front rows engage first and then the rest of the scrums. Actually wait for the ball to be put in (straight) and then push.

        It will take away the early engage, the struggle to grapple for a bind on a skin tight skirt as 800 odd kgs push you forward and more importantly it will actually put an emphasis on things such as pushing technique and binds and not just who can anticipate the ref's call quicker without getting caught.
        \"God gave me the talent but the forwards gave me the ball\" - Jannie De Beer

        \"I hesitate to use words like spiritual or religious, but to see what rugby means to Munster people is very moving\" Shaun Payne

        I look back on 2008 at the Millennium Stadium as the highlight of my career because, although being capped by New Zealand and playing for the All Blacks was fantastic, this was special. - Doug Howlett

        Comment


          #5
          Originally posted by rathbaner View Post
          What's more important, the scrum itself or the flow of the game?

          If the former then all you can do is make small adjustments, eg ensuring the binds are correct say by bringing a linesman in on the ref's blind side.

          If the flow of the game is more important then just ditch the scrum and cut the teams by two players each to make sure the game flows.

          Then everyone can move on to complaining that the breakdown is a mess, and there's an answer for that too.

          The answer to the breakdown is very simple - let the players police it themselves. Bring back old style proper fecking rucking to the body and let any muppet who wants to try and kill the ball feel what its actually like to have riverdance happen on your back, your side and your legs. The ref can still call side entry and no hands but in general players know what they are doing and what to expect if you end up on the wrong side.
          \"God gave me the talent but the forwards gave me the ball\" - Jannie De Beer

          \"I hesitate to use words like spiritual or religious, but to see what rugby means to Munster people is very moving\" Shaun Payne

          I look back on 2008 at the Millennium Stadium as the highlight of my career because, although being capped by New Zealand and playing for the All Blacks was fantastic, this was special. - Doug Howlett

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by overthehillprop View Post
            The answer to the breakdown is very simple - let the players police it themselves. Bring back old style proper fecking rucking to the body and let any muppet who wants to try and kill the ball feel what its actually like to have riverdance happen on your back, your side and your legs. The ref can still call side entry and no hands but in general players know what they are doing and what to expect if you end up on the wrong side.
            Perfectly fair call really.

            As for scrums, the problem is 3 things in particular.

            1. All anyone pays any attention to is top level, the lower levels, especially the grass roots of the game don't have the same problem so people do need to stop assuming that because what they watch on the telly is happening that means it applies throughout rugby.

            2. The shirts have so little grip that players can struggle to bind legally, resulting in players constantly being penalised for something they can do a great deal of feck all about. Now dropping the hit (much as I do love that when you're in a pack that can do it well) will help. Referees not allowing the scrum to start until they've checked the binding properly, as they used to, would help as well. BUT making props wear shirts that allow the legal binding would be a good move as well. What muppet has actually agreed to the legality of shirts that actually hinder the binding the law says props MUST use?

            3. Get referees to have a fecking clue. Most don't have the faintest idea.
            I'm sick of watching LHs being penalised for not binding when clearly the TH is binding on their tricep/elbow and so pulling their arm out of position and stopping the bind. If referees had a clue what they were looking at they'd be penalising what is causing the problem not the results.
            Likewise if they're not going to penalise illegal play then don't penalise the prop who sorts it out illegally. Don't stand there watching a playing dipping and driving in (both illegal) then penalise the opponent who deals with the problem (the problem you as the ref should be handling) by driving the guy back up again.
            In particular stop letting teams engage and push past the mark before the ball comes in - it is illegal, it is ****ing obvious, so referees could just do their job and penalise it. The scrum MUST be stationery before the ball comes in. Too many teams just drive from the off. Likewise how does Dylan Hartley stand up in about 75% of scrums he's in and yet never get penalised for it. Start penalising the ****ING OBVIOUS right in front of their eyes and referees might actually get more control.

            Last thought, referees seem to have been told to just get the game moving all the time and that is part of the problem with the scrum. There is no other way to explain how they just stand and watch crooked feeds and packs pushing before the put in. Maybe if the laws were applied correctly as they stand it might be easier to control it. And stop making up offences because something doesn't look right as well.
            \"A million monkeys with a million crayons would be hard-pressed in a million years to create anything as cretinous as Battlefield Earth.\"

            Comment


              #7
              Originally posted by John Cooper Clarke View Post
              It's actually improved since - crouch, touch, pause, engage. It's still a messy area though, and lots of refs can't work out who is doing what in awarding penalties.

              p.s. Nor can most pundits.
              I don't think the actual calls/number of calls were ever the problem, it was the cadence. There needs to be a rhythm, the calls need to be evenly spaced so the players are ready to engage right on cue based on the rhythm of the previous calls instead of the bollox that sometimes goes on with a big drawn out pause before the engage/set with the ref seemingly playing a game of Simon Says with the packs, Simon didn't say engage.
              How hard would it be to instruct the referees to count 'one, two' in their head between calls to give a consistent cadence, "Crouch", one, two, "Touch", one, two, "Set". The players should never be in doubt of when the call to engage will come.

              Comment


                #8
                Originally posted by <BM> View Post
                I don't think the actual calls/number of calls were ever the problem, it was the cadence. There needs to be a rhythm, the calls need to be evenly spaced so the players are ready to engage right on cue based on the rhythm of the previous calls instead of the bollox that sometimes goes on with a big drawn out pause before the engage/set with the ref seemingly playing a game of Simon Says with the packs, Simon didn't say engage.
                How hard would it be to instruct the referees to count 'one, two' in their head between calls to give a consistent cadence, "Crouch", one, two, "Touch", one, two, "Set". The players should never be in doubt of when the call to engage will come.
                that big pause was a major issue, you had so many "early hits" that were actually a simple matter of the physics that you couldn't keep people hanging like that and if anyone should have been penalised it was the referee. The fact most were consistently bad in applying too long a pause didn't help at all.
                \"A million monkeys with a million crayons would be hard-pressed in a million years to create anything as cretinous as Battlefield Earth.\"

                Comment


                  #9
                  Why was the old style scrum set removed?
                  Stay cool .None of us are in the brain trust,right!

                  Comment


                    #10
                    Originally posted by onthe 22 View Post
                    Why was the old style scrum set removed?
                    because they can't stop interfering
                    \"A million monkeys with a million crayons would be hard-pressed in a million years to create anything as cretinous as Battlefield Earth.\"

                    Comment


                      #11
                      Scrum in crisis?

                      I still don't understand why the props jerseys cannot have a patch of heavy duty material maybe two or three inches deep by six inches long heavily stitched into the correct position for the bind. Or here is an idea, the players could start wearing proper cotton rugby jerseys, big enough for the opposite prop to get a hold of in the right place.

                      Comment


                        #12
                        Originally posted by <BM> View Post
                        I don't think the actual calls/number of calls were ever the problem, it was the cadence. There needs to be a rhythm, the calls need to be evenly spaced so the players are ready to engage right on cue based on the rhythm of the previous calls instead of the bollox that sometimes goes on with a big drawn out pause before the engage/set with the ref seemingly playing a game of Simon Says with the packs, Simon didn't say engage.
                        How hard would it be to instruct the referees to count 'one, two' in their head between calls to give a consistent cadence, "Crouch", one, two, "Touch", one, two, "Set". The players should never be in doubt of when the call to engage will come.
                        Your last line there is a big problem though, if the players know when the 'set' is coming they all start to jump-the-gun and then you'll have free kick fest again. I agree the length of time that the packs where hanging there in the crouched position, teetering on the brink of falling forward, was causing huge problems, especially in the crouch touch pause engage days. Cadence creates a problem though in that both sides will try to pre-empt the 'set' instead of just 3 calls 3 responses like the refs are asking for.

                        There are some similarities with the argumant about the one false start and you're out at the 100m in the olympics, its quite simple, don't go until you hear the gun, don't engage until you hear the set.

                        Comment


                          #13
                          Interesting article ,I would like to see an end to a scrumhalf being able to come around the scrum given the oppositions scrumhalf little chance of getting the ball away. 9 times out of 10 the number 8 has to pick and go or flick it back to the scrum half.

                          Comment


                            #14
                            Originally posted by Evil Omer View Post
                            Perfectly fair call really.

                            As for scrums, the problem is 3 things in particular.

                            1. All anyone pays any attention to is top level, the lower levels, especially the grass roots of the game don't have the same problem so people do need to stop assuming that because what they watch on the telly is happening that means it applies throughout rugby. I would disagree with you on this. I'm playing/have played in the lower levels from J5 to AIL2 as well as coaching front rows at underage and junior and this is a big issue in my opinion. Primarily as props get little technical coaching and the ref's less again.

                            2. The shirts have so little grip that players can struggle to bind legally, resulting in players constantly being penalised for something they can do a great deal of feck all about. Now dropping the hit (much as I do love that when you're in a pack that can do it well) will help. Referees not allowing the scrum to start until they've checked the binding properly, as they used to, would help as well. BUT making props wear shirts that allow the legal binding would be a good move as well. What muppet has actually agreed to the legality of shirts that actually hinder the binding the law says props MUST use? Dead right

                            3. Get referees to have a fecking clue. Most don't have the faintest idea.
                            I'm sick of watching LHs being penalised for not binding when clearly the TH is binding on their tricep/elbow and so pulling their arm out of position and stopping the bind. If referees had a clue what they were looking at they'd be penalising what is causing the problem not the results. The onus is on the LH to bind first and to bind early. By not doing so they are looking to gain an advantage on the hit and the position they place their arm leaves the th with no choice on his bind ad he's screwed if he doesn't bind.
                            Likewise if they're not going to penalise illegal play then don't penalise the prop who sorts it out illegally. Don't stand there watching a playing dipping and driving in (both illegal) then penalise the opponent who deals with the problem (the problem you as the ref should be handling) by driving the guy back up again. I would agree with you as long as the prop doesn't too anything too stupid to sort it(by punching etc).
                            In particular stop letting teams engage and push past the mark before the ball comes in - it is illegal, it is ****ing obvious, so referees could just do their job and penalise it. The scrum MUST be stationery before the ball comes in. Too many teams just drive from the off. Likewise how does Dylan Hartley stand up in about 75% of scrums he's in and yet never get penalised for it. Start penalising the ****ING OBVIOUS right in front of their eyes and referees might actually get more control. Agreed

                            Last thought, referees seem to have been told to just get the game moving all the time and that is part of the problem with the scrum. There is no other way to explain how they just stand and watch crooked feeds and packs pushing before the put in. Maybe if the laws were applied correctly as they stand it might be easier to control it. And stop making up offences because something doesn't look right as well. I refereed for a few years and in that time I was told I was being too technical at scrum time and that if the ball went in and came out and the scrum didn't collapse that the scrum was a success
                            I remember David Blade did an educational dvd for reffing the scrum and it was quite good and ref's should have to watch it or similar several times a season. Also ref's are too prone to not realisig how dynamic scrums are and that the ascendancyat scrum can change dramatically several times over the course of a match without any changes of personnel.They think this happens illegally when in realityit is props adapting and changing...ie: scrummaging
                            Last edited by nuke; 3rd-January-2013, 21:20.

                            Comment


                              #15
                              Originally posted by nuke View Post
                              I remember David Blade did an educational dvd for reffing the scrum and it was quite good and ref's should have to watch it or similar several times a season. Also ref's are too prone to not realisig how dynamic scrums are and that the ascendancyat scrum can change dramatically several times over the course of a match without any changes of personnel.They think this happens illegally when in realityit is props adapting and changing...ie: scrummaging
                              nuke generally I think we agree and especially your comments about referees not realising a scrum dominance can change throughout the game. I think I've said on here before that each scrum is a new battle and unless you get it right on the engage you can go from being totally dominant to absolutely fecked in the space of one scrum. I'm not in the least surprised you got ticked off about being too technical. I'm sure conversations I have had with referees reflect that, i.e. the directive is just get the game going again.

                              My comment about not being a problem at lower level was that it isn't the shambles you see on the telly week after week. Over all the years I've played rugby I've not played in a series of matches with the constant restarts we see at the top level. I do agree though there are problems and props at lower level getting no real coaching at all is definitely one but it's not the shambles we see on telly every week.

                              In terms of the LH bind, again I'm doing that thing of saying the top level is all but the bind time is a second so basically the old days (which I do remember) of the LH being expected to get his bind first don't happen. Meaning if the TH can get on the back of the LH's arm first he can control the binding battle and most referees will, wrongly, penalise the LH for not binding. In fact that is one thing I think overthehillprop is heading towards, go back to having to bind first not slam in. That way the LH would have to get his bind, given the shirt works and there would be less of people pulling or dropping arms.
                              \"A million monkeys with a million crayons would be hard-pressed in a million years to create anything as cretinous as Battlefield Earth.\"

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