Monday, August 20, 2012

Scrums : Pause For Thought

Esteemed rugby official Mr RE Ferry is joining us at HarpinOnRugby this season to give an idea of how things look from his side of the whistle.

RE Ferry header

And so it’s finally gone. That word, “pause,” uttered by referees all over the world for God knows how many seasons. I have to admit when it was first mooted, I thought it was a daft thing to say. We had to say “crouch, touch and engage” first of all at scrum time before eventually being asked to have a pause between “touch” and “engage.” The IRB presumably thought we weren’t clever (or patient) enough so soon after they requested that referees had to actually say the word “pause” while having the pause. I always thought it sounded wrong.

Skip forward a few seasons and the dictate from the IRB is that, before calling engage, referees should now have an additional pause after saying the word “pause.” A double pause if you like. Are you still with me? Am I the only one who thinks that the problems started in the scrum engagement process with this double pause?

Now you have 16 bulls, 8 on either side, all dying to make the hit in the scrum and all wound up like coiled springs. Just to the side you have the poor little ref asking them to touch and then wait…and wait…Balance on both sides is probably wobbling as the five behind the front row are just as eager to help with the initial hit. Once engage was called after this insufferable delay, it usually went to pot as we have been seeing in our local clubs and on the telly.

So guess what? We wait with bated breath for the IRB solution and, surprise, surprise, they go back to the initial three words with the substitution of “set” for “engage.” Maybe they want refs to have a starting pistol to signal the hit…

(IRB directives, June 2012): 4. Scrum.

Three calls (crouch, touch, set) and three actions: Crouch means crouch, touch means touch, etc.

Binding of props on body, not arm, of opponent.

Hit straight and stay straight.

Reason: Referee to take control of the engagement procedure, not the players.

So there you have it. If it wasn’t broken, it shouldn’t have been tampered with.

I only hope that referees are not asked to have a long pause between “touch” and “set” as it might start the whole sorry mess again. Let’s get a proper crouch with both front-rows square on to each other; get a proper touch so it can been seen that they are close enough to have a controlled hit and then call “set,” letting both sides snuggle in to each other.

OK, snuggle might be hoping for too much but I’m fairly confident that this new (old) directive might resolve some of the engagement problems that have beset the scrums.

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