Crouch, Grapple, Fall Over

Rugby is in trouble, if the vast amount of print and blog-space devoted to pieces lamenting the state of the modern game are anything to go by. We wrote about it ourselves recently, decrying a game that has become so systems based as to be robotic. The Guardian has a piece this week in which several players from bygone eras try to make sense of what the game they loved and played has become, and Alan Quinlan wrote a thoughtful piece along similar lines to our own, noting how players have become slaves to systems and individual flair has been wiped out of the game. Ireland’s stupefyingly dull but ultimately winning rugby in their last two games have rammed the message home.

It’s hard to argue with most of it, and at the very heart of things when it comes to pig-ugly awfulness lies the scrum. Let’s just come out and say it: the scrum is a blight on the game of rugby. What is supposed to be a means of re-starting the game after one team makes a mistake has somehow evolved into an interminable wait followed by an unwatchable, dangerous melange of pushing, grappling and, mostly, falling over; it’s become a licence for huge men to cheat and con the referee into thinking they’re doing the right thing, and a chance to milk penalties from the opposition. And worst of all, nobody understands it. How many times in the last year have you watched a scrum go down, heard the shrill blast of the referee’s whistle and then waited expectantly to see which arm he throws skywards, with no real idea which way it’s going to go. Have your team won a penalty, or conceded one? Who the hell knows?! It’s a random number generator. Northampton marched to a Heineken Cup final is 2011 on the back of a scrum that all commentators agreed was illegal, and yet they got away with it throughout the entire year, and beyond.

With two children apiece, both Egg and Palla are frequent users of the record and live-pause functions on their tellyboxes. Confession time. Palla will quite happily admit that if he’s a few minutes behind real time, he’ll use the endless scrum resets as a means to catch up. It’s easy: simply hold down the fast forward button (x6 works best)until you see the players are running again and the dreaded set piece is over. Another confession: when Leinster or Ireland have knocked on and their opponents are playing with advantage, Palla secretly wants them to get over the advantage line so at least he doesn’t have to endure yet another interminable scrum. Hoping one’s own team concede ground?! What has the world come to? But yes, it’s really become that dire.

The problem is that the more they try to fix the scrum, the more broken it becomes. Putting the defending team five metres behind the hindmost foot has had a detrimental effect. It was designed to make it a better attacking platform, but the unintended consequence has come to pass. It makes it such a good attacking platform that the defending team dare not offer it to the opposition; better to simply sink the scrum umpteen times and take your chances that you’ll break even in penalties over the course of a match. Sure, the ref hasn’t a clue what’s going on anyway.

The other consequence of the scrum is it slows the game down to a crawl. It takes an age to set up in the first place, and drags on interminably if it collapses a couple of times, which it usually does. This has other consequences, and brings us back to the points made by Quinlan and others. Punctuating a match with so many lengthy stoppages to set the scrum up (and, to a lesser extent, the lineout) allows the modern-day behemoth gym monkeys a chance to get their breath back. If we are concerned about the sheer size of players and the lack of flair on view in test rugby, every opportunity must be taken to speed the game up. It’s a faster game that tires out bigger men, and results in speedsters being given the opportunity to find mismatches and space into which to run. The scrum simply places a premium on huge, hulking 130kg monsters and further reduces the value of those who are lighter, fleeter of foot, or liable to throw the ball to another player.

The new scrum calls have, to be completely fair, marginally improved matters, but not to any great effect. Most scrums still collapse a number of times before a penalty or free-kick eventually results. This is a problem without an easy fix. We can’t provide a catch-all solution. What nobody wants is a reversion to uncontested scrums such as in rugby league. No, please, not that.

But one solution that might help would be to at least reduce the stakes of losing a scrum. The majority of technical scrum infringements should be downgraded from a penalty to a free-kick. It has never made sense that the simple error of slipping a bind – losing one’s grip while trying to grab a hold of modern day jerseys which are custom designed to be impossible to hold onto in the first place– should merit the same punishment as cynically killing the ball on your own five-metre line. If one team enjoys scrum dominance over another they can still exploit it by marching their opponents down the pitch, and using the platform to unleash their three-quarters, so the chances of this law denuding the importance of props would be slim. Besides, heavy set chaps would still be required to lift in the lineout. But it would at least reduce the multitudinous, seemingly random array of three-pointers that have begun to take on a disproportional importance in deciding the outcomes of rugby matches.

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43 Comments

  1. You aren’t far wrong about the scrum issues. However the last two weeks have seen such a load of overblown nonsense about the “state of the game”. I wouldn’t be surprised if next week serves up a couple of classic games and all of a sudden the “crisis” is averted. Until the next time that is.

    • Wardy is consistently the best for “react what you just saw”

    • Das Waderwurst

       /  February 19, 2015

      Agree completely. A bit too much hand-wringing has gone on based on a few stale games and everyone becoming a medical expert overnight. Critical mass has been reached with the concussion issue to the point that it has gone mainstream, in particular following North’s clash in the much-watched Friday night opener. It is of course a good thing that these issues have reached the wider public, but there’s inevitably going to be a bit of a moral panic as a higher number of concussions are reported and the issue permeates into popular consciousness.

      As for the scrum, I think it has drastically improved, but is still something of an abomination. Agree with WOC regarding free kicks being awarded for the vast majority of offences. Would specify that the side awarded the free kick would not be allowed to opt for another scrum. Sides would be encouraged to tap and go more, speeding up the game as well as reducing the three-point kick fests.

      • Agree with your suggestion that resulting free kicks cannot be turned into another scrum. Seems sensible.

        • Vin Scott

           /  February 19, 2015

          Any provision made for being 5m from the opposition line?

          That would be one of the only drawbacks where a dominant attacking scrum could be unfairly nullified time and again without penalty try or sanction going against the offending team.

        • Lop12

           /  February 20, 2015

          I came in to make exactly that suggestion, remove scrum as an option from either FK or Pen after one shot at it.

  2. UnmixedMaster

     /  February 19, 2015

    Lol Nice to see some others using the pause ff button. I use it for penaltys kick also.

    • I ended up having to watch the match late on Saturday and probably caught up as much time forwarding through Thoughtful Penalty Kicking Johnny as I did at the half time analysis!

      • There’s a few seconds where you expect him to kick it, and if he goes past those he takes another age. It’s excruciating, not least cos that’s when he has tended to miss too, in the past. EG Paris last year.

  3. Mobius pimp

     /  February 19, 2015

    Lads, I loved this blog because it used to be largely data driven rather than the dull, sensationalist waffle served up in the papers.
    You seem to be increasingly losing this over the last six months or so, mostly opinion with very little statistical support.

    Take today’s article for example.
    “Time in play” stats have increased in every world cup since professionalism.
    http://www.theroar.com.au/2012/09/03/how-long-is-a-rugby-match-really/
    Yes, the scrum is the biggest time sink, but this was a far worse problem 20 years ago than it is today.
    The best team in the world is the most skillful team in the world.
    The best player in the world is an under-sized number eight with an outrageous skill set.
    The best 2 players in the last lions series were the two of the smallest (halfpenny and Genia).

    The high standard games today are utterly enthralling (see Ireland’s games against SA and Australia from november).

    I’m nearing retirement after 12 years of J2/J3 rugby and the quality of those games during that time period have gone from kicking slug fests when I started to mostly open running games today.

    I will finish this rant by stating that I found the France game thoroughly engrossing (was at it) and pleading that you cease to increasingly resemble the beast that this blog was built in antipathy to Monsieur Thornley.

    • Noted – and thanks for the feedback, always helpful.

      The high standard games are enthralling, and BNZ at their best are fantastic, but anywhere below that level, it can be terrible stuff. The France game was engrossing, sure, but enjoyable?

    • Lots in there, but some of those stats can be misleading. Ball in play time is a bit of a red hering; it’s up – sure, but I would venture that it also spends far more time airborne than ever before. And the scrum used to be a time-sink propblem, but in a different way. There were simply far too many of them, but each individual scrum started and finished fairly quickly. Nowadays there are fewer scrums but each one takes an ocean of time.

      The best two players of the last Lions series being the smallest is well and good, but the series itself was an atrocity. The second game was one of the worst test matches I’ve had the misfortune to watch. If we’re going to acclaim Halfpenny as player of the series it’s on the back of his rock-solid tackling and unwavering place-kicking; he hardly set the pulse racing with a number of searing line breaks. Genia is certainly a rugby genius but he no longer gets picked for the Australia team.

    • I agree with you in that most aspects of the game are getting better and better – but scrums are dire. They are dull, frequently end in penalties (a higher sanction than for the offence from which the scrum is intended as a restart… mad) and are often decided randomly. By any measure they are an absolute bust.

      Like WoC, I would not like to see uncontested scrums* but it’s very hard to see how it is fixed. As far as I can tell, the combination of increasing power of the players (it’s simply not comparable to 20 years ago, when scrums used to work) and pragmatic (euphemism) coaches and players seems to have reached its unfortunate endpoint. The genie has left the bottle, and we are left with an unreffable mess that we can tinker with but not fix.

      *although, with ongoing debates about effective space on the pitch shrinking, getting rid of the flankers (i.e. 13 a side…) and having uncontested scrums – which, by and large, would mean existing flankers moving into the front row – would provide a tidy solution to both those problems… and I reckon the issues will ultimately have to break one way or the other so, while not the solution I want, it wouldn’t shock me if it happened at some point.

      • There is speak of a new game being developed…
        Rucksy Dropsy I think is its current working tile

      • Mobius Pimp

         /  February 19, 2015

        The only reasonable way to fix the space issue and not completely change the nature of the game is to make the pitches bigger.
        If players are 25% bigger, then enlarge the pitches by 25% (stadium issues be damned, there’ll be no one in them if people aren’t entertained).

        If the pitches are bigger, then players need to be aerobically fitter so reduces the impact of your Unai’s et al.
        This should also soften the natures of collision as a wider pitch means less front up tackles beyond the ruck zone.
        If you devalue the scrum, then you end up with flanker props rather than fatties, making the pitch smaller again.

        Also interesting to consider getting rid of tactical substitutions, if you can only replace a front row when injured you won’t have as many big bastards in there as they have to last 80.

        In my opinion the worst thing you can do is reduce the player numbers or reduce the importance of the scrum, changes the nature of the game entirely

        • Reducing the number of players would not change the nature of the game entirely, it would however increase the effective space per player on the park. Depowering the scrum would change the nature of the game (although only really in the sense that it would change the nature of scrums, because they are largely disconnected from the rest of the sport right now) and it would indeed lead to flanker props – so if you just killed off competitive scrums entirely, and reduced the pack to six players, the front row as is would change in nature (and the game would be similar, phase to phase, aside from something akin to removing both props from the field for both teams, thus increasing the space).

          My preference would certainly be to keep a competitive scrum. Enlarging the pitches would work on the spatial front (although it wouldn’t necessarily do anything for the scrums) – but could be a nightmare in some stadia and, thus, maybe impossible to make work.

          • Lop12

             /  February 20, 2015

            Whatever about being an issue in the big stadiums it would be a logistical nightmare at all levels of the game below the pro game where there would be little available case to do it.

  4. ORiordan

     /  February 19, 2015

    El Thorninho made the good point on OTB last night that things will probably need to wait until the RWC and see how that goes. The RWC is the IR.. sorry, World Rugby’s baby and cash cow and they only tend to be motivated to address issues if they impact the RWC.

  5. Having played hooker for years – admittedly fadó, fadó – I am big into scrums. I love watching good scrummaging and am practically ecstatic whenever the bird’s eye view camera is showed on screen, so I can examine binds, feet position, general structure etc. Unfortunately even I have to concede that they have become a lottery with penalties being awarded willy nilly, which makes a joke of the scrum as area of contest, a mass wrestling clinch if you will, where brawn and technique must be applied in harmony, in order to prevail. I therefore think the suggestion of awarding free kicks instead of a peno has a lot to commend it. Anything to save our scrums!!!!

  6. If it was just a free kick, what would stop a team from a cynical approach? Isn’t that the real problem here – that refs can’t distinguish between intentional foul play and system failure?

    Not saying I don’t agree with the rest of what you say – it’s just a tricky fix.

    I dunno if I’m as disheartened generally about the game – I find it hard to say if it’s got worse as I still enjoy watching it as much as ever.

    I think most talk of decline is usually an attempt to make the present time seem more significant – and it’s fairly popular and widespread when people talk about anything from music to politics or whatever else – very hard to quantify.

    • Agree, it’s a tricky fix, and your point about referees’ inability to identify cheating was made in the original post.

      There’s little to stop one team scrummaging cynically, but it would at least have the effect of reducing the disproportionate impact scrums have on match outcomes, and hopefully speed things up a bit.

      • Daniel

         /  February 19, 2015

        Very interesting post and discussion about the scrums. I think under this kind of a rule perhaps calling each team’s 3rd scrum infringment as a penalty would help cut down on cynicism; and perhaps the 2nd scrum penalty for either side being an automatic yellow?

        Sound like a bit of a strange system but it could help avoid the possible cynical collapsing problem.

  7. jacothelad

     /  February 19, 2015

    The first thing a ref should now do at pro level is to stop the clock immediately on a scrum ‘failure’and let the players know that he’ll keep doing it that way until they get it right…stable, still and square and then start the clock….unless of course there is obvious arseing about. He should also insist that when he calls ‘Crouch’ that they do it. If they don’t – free kick against the slowest and if they persist then full penalties followed by cards. It’s nonsense. You could have a cup of tea and a bun while they try to outwait each other. Feckin’children. Perthaps the front rows should engage and then the back 5.

  8. andrew097

     /  February 19, 2015

    The problem with the scrum is the refs are not reffing it according to the laws. Paddy O’Brien started this when he changed how the laws were interpeted/
    To fix the scrum firstly ref ” pushing before the ball comes in” easy one this any side that goes beyond the mark , free kick against them. This means they have to pack down a lot slower and in balance and less likley to collaspe. Ball straight another easy one forcing hookers to hook also means the ball can be very quick ball indeed, in and out a standard tactic to get the scum over with if you were under pressure.
    I could go on but its in the powers to fix it and hurry it up just ref the laws as written because they made it work.

  9. I think one thing about the scrums that hasn’t helped over the years is referees’ insistence on a very slow engagement call. I think you retweeted an article WoC on Barnes in particular on Saturday in one instance having the front rows squat for a good 20 seconds before he actually even began his call, which may not be a significant effort in isolation (unless you skip leg day, don’t *ever* skip leg day) but factor in the effort of actually playing the game (remember that?) and it can’t be helpful.

    I do find it ironic that probably the best scrum of the Ireland game last week ended up with Heaslip not being able to react quickly enough to the ball shooting out and us nearly turning over possession because Murray got caught out. At least it gave us that delightful SOB clearout!

  10. @shelflife68

     /  February 19, 2015

    its funny that at lower levels we dont have the same problems, at J1 J2 levels we as refs insist on a long bind, square and steady and no pushing before the ball comes in and we have very few resets. If the basics are adhered to it makes the whole thing easier.

    If you allow a prop to bind on a players arm and push before the ball comes in of course you will have problems.

    As a former J2 prop I too love a good scrum but the elite refs are simply copping out of implementing the basics. It amuses me that lower level refs without ARs can manage the scrums every week in week out but the elite refs with two ARs full comms and a TMO cant !

  11. Derek

     /  February 19, 2015

    Perhaps the best thing that could be done to the game is to reinstate replacement only when injured. It may help to bring back proper fatty scrummagers, not power-props, and will reward fitness rather than size.

  12. ruckinhell

     /  February 19, 2015

    Hang on, you want to decrease the delay in the games caused by reset scrums by reducing the stakes of a lost scrum? I’m a flanker and would be delighted if a free kick was awarded against my team as opposed to a penalty if we had a weak scrum. That’s a clear win for the weaker scrummaging team if the alternative is to be marched backwards in a scrum or penalised off the park. I would have my front row dropping the bind the whole time! I think the existing laws are more than sufficient to deal with the issues if applied correctly and consistently. Crooked feeds are a particular bugbear of mine, we were actually seeing a genuine contest for the ball (with balls lost against the head!!!!) at the beginning of the season when this was being rigorously enforced, it seems that something made World Rugby change their approach as it suddenly went back to feeds under the locks as per normal.

    One area I’d like to see changed is that of timekeeping of scrums. I would immediately stop the clock once a scrum is called and only restart once the ball had left the hindmost foot of the scrum. This would therefore mean that there is no incentive to “kill the clock” via multiple scrum resets and you’d have the fatties having to run for a full game rather than taking 5-10 minutes of rest time via scrum breaks (they’d get to rest but still have to see out the full clock rather than maybe 55 or 60 minutes of cardio-related game time.

  13. I agree the scrum is a major issue and I’d agree with Tran about the timekeeping, I’ve never understood the clock just ticking along and wasting time as the scrum collapses, resets, binds, collapses, resets, poor footing there let’s move over, crouch, collapse, reset. It’s a joke.

    However I’d steady on about the “state of the game”. You can watch some turgid rugby and I agree with Quinlan that defence rules all but I don’t find that boring to watch, it’s definitely engrossing, edge of your seat stuff because you know any mistake could pretty much decide the outcome of the game so for me, every tackle, every impact is crucial and that makes for good viewing in my book. Obviously it is much more exciting when you get a linebreak (and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the rugby Scotland have played so far for example, Stuart Hogg has an amazing step on him). But bemoaning the boredom of Ireland’s games… I think if we don’t butcher that try opportunity against the French you’re looking at a really brilliantly crafted try and everyone is lauding the gameplan. The French would (probably) be out on their feet after that and maybe we’d have nicked another try and we’re the best team in the world again, who knows.

  14. I think the current scrum setup still places far too much importance on getting body position of all 16 players right at the very start of the scrum.

    The old, old way of folding in a la from c. 20 seconds in this clip https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XOg7aR5sHts

    placed far less importance on the initial setup and was therefore so much quicker – it would also encourage a higher body position of props & therefore they would need to be more wiry/less bulky, more flexible, and more capable of judo type wrestling rather than just pushing.

    I was never anywhere near the scrum so maybe I don’t know enough about it but surely that’s less risky/dangerous to neck injury and would allow quicker setups & therefore quicker completion but also allow props to find a good position over a second or two rather than in a milisecond due to the (completely illegal) “hit”.

    What ye think?

  15. roundy

     /  February 19, 2015

    If an attacking team are awarded a scrum near opponents line which is dropped by the defending team the attacking team would only get a free kick? No penalty, no option to reset, seems unfair, no? With the birds eye view it is becoming easier to decide who is doing the naughty. A long bind, a straight feed followed by a straight push and the TMO watching from above should be enough to police the scrum. Its an integral part of the game and if the current rules were applied could well remain so.

  16. Also, we need to give ye lads or Demented Mole c 40 yrs worth of scrum back catalogues to do some proper statistical analysis so we can make a truly informed, data led suggestion 😛

    • Xyz

       /  February 19, 2015

      That could be the punishment for collapsing a scrum in a test match…

  17. Pete

     /  February 19, 2015

    Thought these were some pretty clever and mad ideas
    http://www.sportsjoe.ie/rugby/how-to-improve-rugby-15-ways/13962

  18. Buzz

     /  February 20, 2015

    As a neutral, the Ire/Fra game was dire to watch.

    This isn’t some knee-jerk reaction that can be solved by a couple of great games.

    Rugby League and American Football have both reacted over the years to changes in their sports but Rugby Union has done nothing since professionalism.

    The players are bigger, faster, fitter and stronger than ever but the pitches are the same size as 100 years ago.

    My solution? Drop it to 12 per side. 6 forwards and 6 backs. Then the onus would be on vision, skill, speed and endurance.

    That would get rid of 145kg props and endless boshing it up the middle tactics.

  19. I agree that too mant scrums are resulting in kickable penaltys,

    I also that free kicks should be what the ref should go for unless there is obvious foul play then they can go for a penalty (TMO could be used for 5 meter scrums to decide penaltys- but this would slow things down even more)

    What about a static bind? start with the front rows and let the rest fall in, no drive until the ball is in, I think you see so many penalties from props not getting the bind right first time and slipping when trying to recover.

  20. SportingBench

     /  February 20, 2015

    The scrum really just needs a few tweaks and the refs need some help to make it work again.
    Firstly, referees and pro players appear to have forgotten that the scrum is a method of restarting the game not a contest that the referee is supposed to judge and reward the stronger team. If the ball is playable, the scrum is over. If a team can’t get a scrum completed without an obvious foul, then give the put in to the other team.
    The ref should definitely stop the clock when a scrum goes down and not start it again until the ball comes out back into play no matter how many resets.

    Secondly, the scrum should fully form while stationary with the two front rows together then everyone else joining in, rather than each side building separately and then interlocking which we have at the moment. Removing the “hit” means the scrum is less likely to go down accidentally due to a prop slipping their binding. In fact building the scrums up this way should mean the slipped binding is the props fault!

    Thirdly, a scrum going down should absolutely be a penalty and the referee should be immediately thinking card. They should stop the clock (as above) and watch replays to see if they can identify a primary cause. If they can’t apportion blame then give the put in to the other side.
    Scrums going down and the referee stopping to find out why and giving a card would be a large inducement to keeping the scrum up. Earlier in the week I mentioned Alain Rolland’s double yellow in the Eng SA game a few years ago when (slightly demob happy) he decided that both props were at it and eventually binned one from each side. The result was the next scrums stayed upright.

    A final point is that the referees do seem to give teams a lot of time to set up at the scrum and the lineout which seems unnecessary and in fact encourages them to plan such devious tactics as dropping a weaker scrum. Why should teams be given additional time to talk tactics at lineouts and scrums?

  21. bandwagonernumber1

     /  February 20, 2015

    I am new to writing to commenting on this blog, but long time listener, etc…

    I think a lot of the problem is the notion that some refs, and many others buy into – that the dominant scrum somehow ‘deserves’ to win penalty kicks. I am not sure what the solution in terms of law is, but I do think that the reward for having a dominant scrum should be just that – dominating the scrum!

    You don’t get any extra rewards for owning your opposition at the line out, or in the ruck, until there is foul play by the opposition. The same should apply to scrums.

    That said – the closest open play analogue to a scrum is a driving maul. And a very high percentage of these end in penalties too. At the end of the day, professional rugby players don’t acquiesce being driven backward. The result is that, even if there is no ‘intentional’ foul play, players will ‘lock out’ their legs, refuse to chase their feet, etc, which will often result in collapse (in both mauls, and scrums.)

    Perhaps then, like mauls, the best way to deal with scrums would be to limit the number of times it can stop? This seems to be a relatively successful way to manage mauls (which, though they end in penalties on many occasions, still have a higher ‘completion’ rate than scrums.)

    It would I think,
    1.) Encourage the return of hooking. If the team with the put in could only attempt to drive once, or twice, they might be much less keen to rely on ‘driving over’ the ball. This and proper attention to crooked feed might solve a lot.
    2.) Limit the downside for the defending team. If you only have to defend one, or two, drives, you might be more willing to concede the few yards required to chase your feet and push back properly. Even if you have a very dominant scrum, it is pretty difficult to sustain a drive for longer than that. You will nearly always have to stop, and go again, if the opposition stays up and pushes back. If a scrum is so dominant that they can march the opposition back too fast for them to sustain a defensive push, then they should attempt just that. They will either succeed, or the defending scrum will commit some offence. This kind of dominance would be rare.
    3.) Give the ref an ‘out’ other than resetting the same scrum, or penalty – he could invoke the maul type ‘use it or lose it’ incurred at the 2nd (or first or whatever) stop in motion. The result would still be another scrum, but it would be a scrum to the other side.

  22. David

     /  February 21, 2015

    Enjoy your articles but I disagree with depowering or removing the scrum. Changing the level of consequence for certain scrum infringements is also not a solution in itself. I do agree there are definite flaws in the modern game to be addressed.

    Given the level of conditioning of todays rugby players (especially at top level), space is already at a premium. Specialised defence coaches are making it increasingly difficult for attacking players to innovate or make breaks. Things are far more formulaic by necessity.

    Props and the scrum are essential to rugby union if the game is to remain true to some form of its origins. Hypothetically if you remove 2 130kg props from each team (and even substitute in a more mobile sean o brien flanker type for argument sake), what happens? Less energy is sapped from forwards players legs at scrum time, and they have more energy and pace/ power to reach first and second breakdowns. i.e no space. It pushes any chance of less structured play out the gate.

    The intended benefit of adding more mobile and skillful ball players end up having a negative rather than positive effect on the game…….. it removes attacking chances, space and time of ‘ball in play’.

    Take it a bit further and it might be argued to remove 2 props altogether and have 13 players to manufacture that little more space for attack purposes (the bums on seats argument). The game flattens in terms of dimension and complexity for numerous phases after a restart. You effectively end up with some version of rugby league.

    I totally agree that todays game has flaws but the solution is harder to see given the level of analysis and conditioning today. These ‘flaws’ are simply a natural consequence of professionalism. There was a good yet depressingly honest article by the Saracens technology analyst re strategy recently.

    But the scrum really is more than just a means to restart the game. It has an integral psychological component and when you look at the effect it has on the overall game, it is an essential part of rugby union.

  23. Yossarian

     /  February 22, 2015

    This happens every six nations. It is the most viewed rugby played all year so is therefore under more scrutiny/media coverage. I love the tournament but it is often filled with poor enough games.(cue cliche “one for the purists”)
    I like the fact there is no bonus points, it is must win rugby. You win a grand slam off everyone else. (It isn’t just awarded for overall winner)It is imbalanced by the home/away lay out of the fixtures. There is long standing history between all the teams and is often played with more pride and passion than skill. All these things make it unique.
    The new engagement calls have helped the scrum. There are some good suggestions above but changing the numbers playing or the size of the pitch just don’t seem like runners to me.

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