Thursday, 19 January 2012

Whatever happened to: Rucking?

Whatever happened to rucking?

I've touched on this before, but nowadays the ruck is a curious sight. A player is tackled then rolls around for a bit adjusting his body position in an attempt to place the ball back advantageously for his teammates. Meanwhile the tackler pops back up to his feet and squats over the tacklee trying to rip the ball from the tacklee's grasp or, at the very least, to stop its release. In the meantime everyone else in the vicinity either dives to the ground to seal off the ball, launches themselves like a human torpedo at the developing pile-up or stands to one side of the melee with arm raised to signal that they know what they're doing even if no one else does. Everyone else fans out across the pitch in a leisurely fashion secure in the knowledge that the ball is not going to emerge anytime soon, while the referee scratches his head at the pointlessness of it all.

This, my friends, is known as a "ruck" and is characterised largely by the fact that if the ball ever does emerge it only does so after the scrum half has had time to pop the kettle on and phone his mother before arriving at its base.

'Twas not ever thus.

I realise that this will make me sound like the oldest of old gimmers, but back in my day things were different. From what I recall, when tackled the tacklee would, if he valued his hands, release the ball pretty much immediately. Those forwards arriving at the ruck (for the backs would never have dreamt of getting involved) would link up and endeavour to drive over the tackler and tacklee, both of whom would either try to roll away or cover head, face and other parts sensitive to being trodden on. The odd bruise or scrape would inevitably ensue or, if you were foolish enough to try to prevent the ball coming out, you would deservedly receive a "good shoeing".

Very occasionally those rucking over the ball would go too far but there's a big difference between being trodden on and being stamped on and I think both players and refs were perfectly aware of the distinction.

A boot to the head was wholly unacceptable and punished accordingly but I know of no one who had any objection to the use of the boot to the body in the act of rucking someone out of the way of the ball on the ground.

The key advantage of "traditional" rucking was that it produced quick ball. It also occupied forwards who might otherwise loiter in midfield clogging up the pitch.

With slow ball currently the bane of the modern game the answer, to me, is obvious: bring back the ruck.


James Franco said...

I agree, if you happened to put yourself on the wrong side you knew exactly what was going to happen, so you only did it when absolutely necessary

Von said...

I'm pleased to report that at the *very* low amateur level I play, rucking is alive and well. Mind you the average age in my team is well over 40 and I think some of these guys don't even know the law changed.

Proper rucking self-policing and eliminates the need for refs to apply subjectivity at the breakdown, so they can focus on other things.

Luca Zudich said...

As a 7, rucking is my life. I thrive being one of the only people in my U13 team to be able to clear out effectively. I just grab the opposition player by the legs and drive, or sometimes I will grab their shirt collars, drive for a bit, and throw them to the floor. Rucking is one of the best thing about rugby in my opinion.