my recent musings about the demise of scrummaging as an art form at the elite level comes my latest offering as to why this particular part of the game is now such an unholy mess.
Long time readers of this blog (both of you) might recall my general objection to the introduction of the Evil Law Variations a couple of seasons ago. It’s fair to say that an aversion to unnecessary change was behind much of my opposition with me very much belonging to the “if it ain’t broke…” school of thought. The one ELV that did appear to be reasonably sensible, however, was the moving back of the offside line at scrum-time to 5 metres behind the back foot. This would, so the theory went, create more space for the team in possession to attack and there was no arguing with such impeccable logic.
Sadly, however, things haven’t quite worked out as expected and here’s my theory as to why. A 5 metre offside line should give the attacking team a huge advantage, all the more so if the attacking team manages to wheel the scrum slightly anti-clockwise as this, with the opposition back row forced to stay bound, opens up acres of space to attack. It has therefore become absolutely imperative for the defending team to prevent this from happening and for them to cut down the space by disrupting the scrum by hook or by crook, ideally by wheeling the scrum clockwise. The result? Chaos and a plethora of collapses, re-sets, penalties and free-kicks.
The scrum ELV has meant that the scrummage has perhaps now become too important, especially for the defending team. It may therefore be that the only way to safeguard the future of the scrummage is to reduce its significance by reinstating the back foot as the offside line, thus making defending easier and reducing the need to disrupt the set-piece.
As Alanis Morissette might say: “Isn’t it ironic?”
Just a theory…