Is the cornerstone that has often become the capstone in a rugby contest, in serious jeopardy of moving to the “too hard” basket for this Union of sports?
Before we go too deep into this quest, let me avert any seasonally affected readers. Easy now; the plan is that this reading malarkey remains more of a good time than a long time. I do have a couple of other posts ruminating within that I would like to get without before we hit, Merry.
The clock is ticking.
However, and more concerningly so, the context for this recent talk has come from the purported locus of love for the dark arts. At the time when the scrum was said to be silenced-south, such was shouted down from on high, with the proof of this pudding, circa Rugby World Cup, 2003. You may well remember that time, when the work in the scrum was often subjected to much jest from those in northern confinements as they exclaimed the focus had been removed by the pragmatists, wanting style over substance, so that it all appeared so super.
In a New Zealand context, that good King Henry admitted as much, as has sought over time to pull a Cron-job [Mike Cron - one time ABs scrum guru], with the All Blacks scrum world leading for some time. The thought-piece in the scrum looks to be in safe hands down south, as with the addition of Argentina to make a rugby championship, this focus should be fostered. At least three of these sides tend to get rather excited by this contest, with dominance divine.
On the other hand, this is still not always the case in SupeRugby, where it can get too easily silenced. Case in point is the SupeRugby final in this year of 2011. As one commentator after the fact would note; should a more technical Referee been involved, the only Reds reference on the night would have been the image of a crest-fallen Front-Row, which was allowed to get away with too much for the good of the game. No guesses who the man with the whistle was?!
Speaking of substance, as I get to my point; what has brought this front and centre, has been remarks made this day after the just completed round in the Heineken Cup. In a piece by the affable and one time man in the middle, Brian Moore; he would comment about what reads like a growing crisis come scrumtime, after the display in the Ospreys v Saracens match.
Take a read of these reflections.
Ospreys’ coach Sean Holley suggested that perhaps the set-piece should be scrapped saying: “I don’t know where we are going in the scrums. Maybe we would be better off without them.”
Frustration speaks, but you wouldn’t go there UNLESS the exception has become more like the rule.
This was not one coach merely blowing off steam, as the “other” would also offer some other refrains.
Saracens coach Mark McCall, similarly exasperated, said: “It was carnage. We don’t practise scrum moves anymore because there are so many penalties from them. It breaks down before you can do anything with the ball. It’s just a mess.”
Ramifications anyone! What to do about something?
Serious discussion may prove for another time, but let us see if we can not offer a morsel or two.
1] The scrum is fundamental. We lose the contest in the scrum and we emasculate the stamina in our strength. The other “rugby” code has its own strengths, but one prosaic outworking in that code has been the removal of the scrum as a contest. Yes; there was a day! It is now merely another way of pushing play that looks a little different from the rest.
Our own, Bob, referenced in one of our interviews earlier in the year about the need to rid the tendency for teams to employ a bevvy of one-off runners. The reason this has become routine is because that reality is effective; it works. It should be noted that this is also Rugby League 101. The complexion of the Union code is further influenced on the defensive side of the ball, as the integration of ex-League players becomes a staple of the professional game, particularly north.
Periodically there have been rumblings about the future nature and relationship of these two codes of rugby, and the potential in a future marriage. While those reflecting on the frustration that has become the scrum may not steering this course; there are ramifications. Union must learn from the past and not repeat it.
If our Scrum is bagged, our paradiso is lost.
2] Solution. Don’t look to the Referees as they are part of the problem. To be fair, it can make the lottery look like a breeze, forcing the man to mount the wind into his whistle and blow us all away. Speaking of this context, Bath Prop, David Flatman, would offer the following tweet:
Watching the rugby. These scrums are no longer funny. It’s sad when your job becomes a lottery.
Back in someone else’s day, the team putting the ball into the scrum was given the benefit to call for the engagement. Those wise heads will tell you that the shenanigans of today were not around when they were a boy.
The democracy of rugby must be returned to the people, and it should start in the scrums.
This piece is now starting to get out of hand – a metaphor – so we will leave it out loud for you to mull over, and finish with one from Brian, before I turn the lights out.
No elite referee has ever played in the front row at any level of note nor have their advisors, assessors or supremo Paddy O’Brien. Even so, this cabal of officialdom refuses to accept this as a significant handicap, insisting there is no problem or even if there is, it is wildly overstated.
Is that so? Do we protest too much when 11 out 12 scrums are not completed?
Is there little of note when senior coaches have started to think that the game may be better off without scrums? When they admit they no longer practice scrum moves because of penalties? When up to 25 per cent of a game is taken up with forming, re-forming and penalising scrums and still more time kicking for touch or goal – is there nothing for which elite referees and their superiors have to account?
Finally, in a day when the business is about entertainment that equals ratings, which makes it a success; if the solution can not be sought on the field, it is likely that ideas will come forth from an outside source, as the suits may say it ain’t so. While we are far from a post-mortem, we must not wait for a lifeless corpse to signal that the way forward means burial of this important body of rugby’s work – the scrum.
What Say You?
Shooting from the Lip