Sunday, 26 September 2010

Unintended Consequences

Rotund former England fly half Stuart Barnes made an interesting observation on Sky Sports Rugby Club last week.

Although widely credited for the creation of more tries per match, the new interpretation at the breakdown does appear to have one or two unintended consequences.

One such consequence is that canny coaches, knowing that the attacking team will be favoured, are instructing their defenders not to commit to the ruck and instead fan out across the pitch. Another is that teams in attack, knowing that they will be treated leniently at the breakdown, are committing all sorts of offences which are largely going unpunished by referees.

The picture, from Sky Sports, is a great example of this. While no London Irish player is committed to the ruck, at least 3 Gloucester players have gone to ground over the ball to seal it off. And what is the referee doing? Warning the London Irish players about the offside line rather than penalising the Gloucester attackers (if I was a London Irish player I would be tempted to walk round and pick up the ball as, technically, no ruck exists).
Taken to the extreme the game may end up becoming a series of uncontested mini-rucks with defences spread across the field to reduce space and contain the attack until an offence is committed, with more games decided on penalties, the opposite of what was intended. And with no defenders in the ruck, what we are left with looks suspiciously like Rugby League.
Solution? Leave the game well alone. The biggest problem with rugby over the last four years has been the constant meddling of the IRB. First the ELVs, then a series of conflicting directions to referees on how they should interpret the laws.

Bottom line is that the laws are fine and that referees should be allowed just to get on with it without interference. Then we might actually get a game of rugby.


John Birch said...

No "technically" about it. That is NOT a ruck:

"One or more players from each team, who are on their feet, in physical contact around a ball on the ground.

No way on this planet does that heap of attacking players meet that definition!

One of the first junior games I refed a few years ago something like this happened. Tackle, tackled player goes to ground, presents the ball, attacking team-mate takes position over the top, defender walks round, picks up the ball and runs off to score. I give the try, cue coach to go ape... Read the laws, I said!

John Birch said...

Indeed in addition to that all the Gloucester players are off their feet - "a player must not intentionally fall or kneel in a ruck".

So either its not a ruck, and any Irish player can just go and pick the ball up, or it is a ruck, the Gloucester players are all off their feet, and its a penalty to Irish!

As you say, if the refs just follow the laws there is no problem!

Fat Steve said...

If it was a Ruck at one point and then the defender comes out. Is it still a Ruck until the ball is out? and if there's no oppo the attackers will probably fall over.