Is this not just pulling the piss?
The above clip is NOT to have a go at Faf de Klerk or the Boks. All teams are doing it. And as a coach, I would take this from a referee every single day. Hell, I might even introduce it as an option at my next scrum session. Coaches and players must push the legal envelope. Richie McCaw taught us that.
But as a custodian of the game – a game that “aims to promote a fair contest for possession while also giving an advantage to the team putting the ball into the scrum,” this is simply unacceptable. And for the so-called best referee in the world to let it go, is also unacceptable.
But this is not a day for beating those poor whistle-men about the ears.
We simply have to see the scrum return as a fair contest. Otherwise all we have is rugby league.
The days of the hooker striking on opposition ball are long gone, but the 2018 version of the scrum laws has at least made the strike on your own ball compulsory, which was intended to eliminate the need for a skew scrum feed… Hah!
Robbed of the big initial hit used to gain early scrum ascendancy, scrum coaches around the world bemoaned the strict policing of the straight scrum feed, saying that it negated the advantage that should be afforded to the side feeding the scrum.
Given the safety requirements, and under pressure to rid the sport of multiple scrum resets, the game’s governing body has seemingly given in. That’s why referees are not policing the scrum feed like they were initially implored to do – with the scrumhalf’s shoulder (and not their head) aligned to the middle line of the scrum – and hence the plethora of skew scrum feeds these days.
But this new feed that goes under the flank’s chest, thus bypassing the loosehead prop’s legs completely, takes the skew scrum feed to a whole new level!
Yes, the side awarded the scrum, much like the team awarded the lineout, deserve some sort of advantage. But you also want the side competing for the ball in these two primary phases of the game, to have a chance of stealing it. Especially in a game dominated by such structured defences. Turnover ball gives sides a shot at a less organised defence.
So, bring back the straight feed I say.
The side feeding the scrum, now obliged to strike, will have to set a little higher. And that in turn will lead to fewer resets. But with only seven sets of feet on the ground, as opposed to the opposition’s eight, it does make them susceptible to being shoved off the ball.
This was a big issue while the powers-that-be insisted on the ref deciding when the ball got introduced to the scrum.
Scrumming is about power and technique, but primarily it is about timing. So the new law that allows the side feeding the scrum to control the timing of the feed gives them a significant (but fair) advantage in that they get to time their shove with the feed of the ball using the hooker’s tap and an internal call.
Yet the straight feed keeps it a fair contest. Hell it would be nice to see a defending pack go for the strike rather than the eight-man shove one day!
2018 scrum law amendments:
- The scrum-half must put the ball in straight to the scrum, but they are allowed to align their shoulder to the middle line of the scrum.
- This means they are putting the ball in a shoulder’s width towards their own team’s side of the scrum.
- So the ball has to be put in straight, but rather than being put in down the middle of the tunnel it is put in slightly towards the scrum-half’s own team.
- The referee no longer signals when the scrum-half should put the ball in.
- The aim is to promote a fair contest for possession while also giving an advantage to the team putting the ball into the scrum. In most cases the opposition will have infringed for that team to be awarded the put-in.
- A front-row player must strike the ball once it is put into the tunnel.
- This is traditionally done by the hooker as they are in the best position to strike the ball but either prop is also permitted to do this.
- This means the ball cannot be fed straight to the second row, as had previously been happening.
- The aim is to promote a fair contest for possession.
- If teams don’t strike the ball, the opposition will be awarded a free-kick.
- The No 8 is allowed to pick up the ball from the second row.
- Previously teams had to wait until the ball came through to the back row but the No 8 is now permitted to collect it from the second row.
- The aim is to promote continuity and speed up play.