My mind has been on the laws of rugby union a fair amount recently due to my recent post giving my thoughts on the law trials in Super Rugby. While I can see that many of these laws are trying to improve player safety, I think that there is one area of the game that is being largely ignored but seriously brings down the spectacle of rugby: the scrum.
Much like the lineout, the scrum is intended to be a means of restarting the game in some competitive form while creating space for the backs by collecting all the forwards together. However, with the strength of defences these days and the accuracy of goal kickers even from range, the scrum has basically become a way to win penalties. This has led to large chunks of time being wasted with reset scrums as teams try to collapse the scrum while making it look like it was actually their opponent who collapsed it, leading to a stop-start game with too little actual rugby being played.
I’ve been thinking about this, and I have one simple suggestion that could change the game massively: replace all scrum penalties with free kicks
This may sound drastic at first, but if you consider the lineout, all the offences there are free kicks (the maul is not considered part of the lineout), with the exception of taking the man out in the air, which is a penalty anywhere on the pitch.
If the scrum cannot result in a penalty, then teams will switch to positive play at the scrum, looking to get the ball in and out with a legitimate push to put the opponent on the back foot. Not only does this speed up the scrum itself, but the more positive play will lead to less resets, while teams will be more likely to take a quick tap following a scrum offence rather than scum again.
Not only this, but how often do we see the referee award a penalty at the scrum but replays suggest that the penalty should have gone the other way? With free kicks instead of penalties, not only will we probably see less collapses requiring a referee to make a decision, but these decisions will be less costly if they go the wrong way as teams will not be able to kick 3 points or kick to touch and get the throw-in at the lineout.
All of this will lead to a more exciting, positive game of rugby with more focus on skills and fitness… Isn’t that what we all want to see?
Do you think this law change would help the game? Let me know!