IRB CEO and Managing Director of Rugby World Cup Limited, Mike Miller yesterday confirmed our worst fears that the current problems with the scrum will remain until after this year’s World Cup.
Despite a clear call from all corners asking for this area to be reviewed, Miller’s tweet yesterday ruled out the much needed review.
The tweet simply said ‘Re scrum questions. No changes to Law till after RWC. After RWC will look at all aspects of the Game including scrum, as we do every 4 years.’
The issue for me is that there is no consistency surrounding the timing of the four stage cues “crouch-touch-pause-engage” and this is leading to constant frustration not only for the players but for fans too.
Brought into the game four years ago in the hope of stabilising the scrum and to improve neck safety for the players, the cues now seem to have had the opposite affect and are causing major issues.
With no regulations surrounding the timing of the calls, it very much depends on the referee and the timing can vary dramatically. This not only puts players off, but can also cause injury. It is absolutely unrealistic for the large packs seen in today’s game to hang around waiting to engage into the scrum.
To emphasise my point I have found a great video on YouTube which demonstrates the difference in referees calling times from two international tests last November.
In the video below, the referees’ times have been recorded from the initial “crouch” call until the point of engagement.
On the left is the Ireland v South Africa test refereed by Nigel Owens and records his slowest call at 5.98 seconds, with his quickest call at just 3.9 seconds. On the right is the England v New Zealand game refereed by Romain Poite and records his slowest time as 7.16 seconds, and his fastest at 5.52 seconds.
The difference between the two referees is glaringly obvious and shows how it slows the game down. Up to 20% of ball in play time is reported to be wasted during a game due to the slow calls and resetting of scrums.
Last November at the IRB High Performance Referees meeting in London, the scrum was recognised to be a major focus area but this only related to the referees taking control of the scrum sequence and the strict adherence to the scrum laws.
Until they fix the issue related to the timing of the scrum cues, these problems will continue to persist and no amount of adherence to the laws will help.
As this is the most crucial year for our sport to be portrayed in the best light possible, action needs to be taken now and not after the party.
Get your act together IRB!