The Crusaders were controversially held to a 19-19 draw against the Stormers at Newlands after the TMO ruled that a forward pass had occurred in the build-up to a late try.
The incident reignited the debate about passes, the law book and what the word ‘forward’ actually means… Oom Rugby and Zelím Nel tackle the issue!
Oom says – No, it’s about the ball release
It is simple guys. The player can not release the ball towards the opponent’s goal line. But at the same time of course the ball is moving “forward”. It is like when our wife throw our cell phone from the window while we driving. It go out straight, but it is moving forward!
Regarding that pass from Braydon Ennor at Newlands on Saturday, I do not think it was forward. Marginal for sure, but for me it was fine. Wrong call by ref.
Prof Ross Tucker – a man who does a lot of work with World Rugby around player safety – is in full agreement with Oom. Tucker (@Scienceofsport) Tweeted the following about the Ennor pass: “Simple laws of physics make it clear that the pass is NOT forward – the ball starts off with the same speed as the ball carrier. By the time it is caught by Reece, the former ball carrier is still ahead of the ball. Hence, it’s gone back relative to the ball carrier. It’s a poor call, actually, IMO”
Zels says – Of course it was forward!
Braydon Ennor’s pass travelled three metres forward. Ennor’s pass did not break any rules.
Both of these statements are true today because rugby’s lawmakers have now legalised the forward pass by eliminating “forward means towards the goal-line” from the law book, thus giving the ref an excuse to turn a blind eye to try-scoring forward passes based on the direction of the passer’s hands in relation to his body.
Apologists for chopping out what was once a unique attribute of the game will cite the legitimate and indisputable impact of velocity and inertia on a long pass made at full tilt.
These factors were in existence at the inception of all sports. More than a century later, rugby alone can’t cope with them.
When a soccer player surges across the big box before attempting a perpendicular shot that (at the mercy of velocity and inertia) fades just wide of the goal post, his team is not awarded a goal. It’s terribly wrong. Football really needs to learn from rugby and award goals that would have been scored had the shooter not fallen victim to physics.
In reality, making a long, rugby pass backwards while running at full speed is actually very easy to do. What makes it impossible to achieve is when the moving receiver isn’t running from sufficient depth.
The solution lies in receivers adjusting their depth, not breaking arguably rugby’s most distinguishing law. But that’s only if you value the game’s unique attributes more than sales projections made by marketing nerds.
And that brings us to the question seldom asked by those who support the legalisation of the forward pass: why?
Why, after more than 100 years, was it necessary to break the law that cancels forward passes?
Well, that law had to go because the gems that run rugby have, over the past two decades, increasingly taken their cue from slideshow magicians who talk about “the rugby product” but have no cooking clue about the dynamics of the contest.
The game’s decision-makers have sold out in pursuit of tries which they were told would sell tickets. Except, tries don’t sell tickets.
Back in 2009, before forward passes were legalised, Super Rugby teams averaged 36 tries per season at 2.7 per match. The stadiums were full. Last year, those numbers were 59 tries at 3.7 per match. Teams now play in empty stadiums and interest in Super Rugby has never been lower.
Indeed, this drop in attendance and interest cannot be pinned on one law change, but there’s no doubt that rugby’s eagerness to morph into anything that meets the mythical desires of a new, bigger audience has steadily chased the existing audience away.
The brainboxes at Rugby HQ have once again created ambiguity where once there was clarity, their willingness to circumvent rugby’s most defining law a clear sign that everything about the game is on the table, for the right price.
We wouldn’t be in this predicament if rugby spent more time marketing what it is, rather than trying to change into something more marketable.
OK, you’ve read what they think, now let us know which way you’re leaning, or join the #BigDebate on Twitter!