Friday, 19 November 2010

Whatever happened to: the Scrummage?

scrums - remember these?
Another in an increasingly sporadic series of ramblings about elements of the game that have changed beyond recognition since I first played the game way back in the mists of time...

Whatever happened to the scrummage?

You remember the scrummage don't you? You know, that bit in the game when your eight forwards pack down against their eight forwards and compete for the ball fed in between them?

Perhaps it's just me, but I distinctly remember that used to happen - quite regularly in fact - and, if I'm honest, I acknowledge that in the grassroots game the lost art of scrummaging does break out from time to time.

At the elite level, however, it's a different story and at international level the genuine scrummage has become a seriously endangered species. Whilst in the professional game destructive scrummaging props, and tightheads in particular, still appear to be highly valued, their natural habitat - the scrummage - is fast disappearing.

How often, for instance, do you see two sets of forwards pack down, the ball fed into the middle, a clean strike by the hooker and the ball appearing as if by magic at the number 8's feet? Once in a blue moon, that's how often. It is far more likely that you'll see the scrum collapse, re-set, collapse, re-set and collapse again to the sound of the referee's whistle and the award of a free kick or penalty to one team or the other, seemingly at random. And it seems that many refs, understandably perhaps, now can't even be bothered to go through the charade and just award the free kick or penalty at first contact (whereupon particularly sadistic captains elect to subject the paying public to the farce of another scrum).

In last weekend's England v Australia match there were only 8 scrummages, 6 of which resulted in a free kick or penalty and only one of which ended up with the ball emerging at the back. That's ONE scrum in the whole match in which clean possession was secured.

I've no idea what the solution is - the IRB's Crouch, Touch, Pause & Engage directive doesn't appear to be doing the trick, despite their assertions to the contrary. I'm pretty sure that props wearing tight lycra shirts, as well as it not being particularly aesthetically pleasing, is hardly helpful to successful scrum binding so perhaps a few sensible regulations in that direction might help but, as always, I suspect that non-interference is probably the best policy.

Ditch the directions, make the referees take a back seat and let the players sort it out.


Scotty said...

Yeah as an All Blacks fan I have become frustrated by the scrummaging in our Autumn International matches. We were heavily penalised out of the match against England and I would rather they leave the scrums and let them sort themselves out old fashioned styles. We did still win, but the scrums were annoying.

It does seem the way the game is increasingly moving towards encouraging attack and ball in hand, we probably will see less scrums which won't help the Northern Hemisphere.

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Total Flanker said...


Nursedude said...

As a prop, I can say that the change with advent of the lycra jersey-not only unflattering for the prop-like physique , makes grabbing onto your opposing prop a real challenge-particularly if you are playing loose head, you have to concentrate on making your contact with your left arm really count so that you can get a decent grip and bind.

At the international level, I would agree that the change to Crouch, touch, PAUSE, engage has not helped with the amount of penalties and scrum restarts.

Windy Rucker said...

I watched some downloaded highlights of the '74 Lions tour (admittedly to see JPR sprint the length of the pitch to lamp an unsuspecting Saffer) but was really enthused by the scrums shown back then.
Basically, you had to do it all yourself. The ref didn't have to be there, hell, the ball didn't even have to be there! The openside could break away collect the ball, all the while the rest of the scrum carries on, for the 7 to rejoin where he left off.
Maybe the game should return to simpler times?

Luca Zudich said...

What do people think of the new scrum call? As an open side, I don't really care, but I would like to hear the opinions of the tight 5.