The new season kicked off with real fanfare and hype about the revised law interpretations at the breakdown, and it seemed as though they had brought about a fast, free-flowing, entertaining game.
However, a new scourge of the sport has emerged – collapsed and reset scrums. According to the IRB, 60 per cent of all scrums in Tier 1 internationals collapse, and the time taken to complete a scrum has risen from 41 seconds to 53 seconds. With an average of 16-20 scrums per match, this amounts to a significant duration of the game, and it’s not exactly a thrill a minute..
Last week, the IRB was drawn to respond ahead of the 2011 RBS 6 Nations, and said that coaches from all six competing countries had expressed support for the scrum engagement sequence, as well as the strict application of scrum law.
The key aspect mentioned was binding:
“Referees should crack down on illegal front row binding with a collective emphasis on ensuring that the tight head prop binds on the body of the loose head prop and not the arm and the loose head prop adopts the correct body position and binds on the body of the opposition tight head.”
We spoke to recently-retired England prop and front-row expert Phil Vickery for his views on the matter, and whether policing the binding would solve the issue. It was clear that he felt quite strongly about it.
“My biggest gripe is this,” he began. “I don’t know all the answers and I never claim to. I’m a farmer from Cornwall. But, have I, as a player on the front line at the top level of international rugby for the best part of 12 years, ever been consulted on the scrum? No.”
“I find that ridiculous, and I just think it’s sad. They come out with all these new laws, crouch, touch, pause, you know. Did they ever think to themselves that actually, when you bring packs closer together, yes the impact is less, but if you don’t get a hit, you tend to go down quickly, and that’s why there are more collapses.”
“And now they are talking about binding on the body. You would NEVER bind as a tighthead prop on a loosehead’s body, never. You just don’t do it!”
“A loosehead prop will always bind on the body – that’s really the only place he can bind. As a tighthead, all you are thinking about is staying down and keeping your centre of gravity low. If I go and bind on your body, I’m inviting you to get under my chest, and if you get under my chest, I might as well go home and ring my mum up to do the job.”
“It just makes you wonder who is actually making these decisions. I don’t understand it. They’ve got to go out and ask the question of coaches and players.”
When the Six Nations gets underway on Friday, plenty of eyes will be on the scrum battle, but there’s a chance it will be reduced to nothing by endless free-kicks and penalties for illegal binding. Let’s hope not.
Phil Vickery was speaking on behalf of Raging Bull and Thomas Cook Sport, Official Travel Agent to the 2011 Rugby World Cup. For Phil’s own rugby heritage clothing range, visit www.ragingbull.co.uk and for more information on packages to the RWC, including a special £2,003 package in honour of Phil, please visit www.thomascooksport.com
Phil Vickery is playing SportGuru for the Six Nations! Click here to join his pool.
Photo (thumbnail): Patrick Khachfe/Onside Images