While the 2013 Six Nations championship wasn’t lacking in drama and excitement, there was a rather ugly recurring theme that had rugby union purists pulling their hair out – the modern scrum.
In recent times, scrummaging has become a favourite topic of conversation for fans the world over. Everyone seems to have their own opinion on how to put an end to the painstakingly tedious business of crouch, touch, set, collapse, repeat. While most talk about changes to the actual scrummage process, I’m going to approach the subject from a somewhat radical angle.
Okay here it goes: Let’s just have fewer scrums. “What on Earth do you mean Bryn,” I hear you ask. Well what I am proposing is that the IRB scrap the knock-on and the forward pass rule. If the ball is dropped, simply play on. I am quite a fan of Aussie Rules Football, which has no knock-on rule itself – if the ball is dropped, play simply continues. This allows more continuity and fluency, and it also rewards the fitter players and those who are more willing to put their body on the line to regain possession. American Football fans will also be familiar with this concept, when the ball is fumbled. In fact, basketball, lacrosse, handball and Gaelic football all cope just fine without a comparable law!
The similarities with American football would, of course, end there. Deliberate knock-ons and forward passes should still be punishable with a penalty, so don’t expect to see fly-halves doing their best Tom Brady impression, launching the ball downfield for their wingers to catch. Moreover, the offside rule would still render that illegal. Unless players became competent in making knock-ons and forward passes look accidental, nothing should change tactically whatsoever.
For any alarmed props who are worried about their trade being stolen from them – the art of scrummaging would not be lost. Scrum options would still be available from penalties, free kicks and crooked lineouts, among other things. As a Welshman, clearly I would hate to see Adam Jones’ prowess at tight-head go to waste. It’s just so frustrating when wet and windy conditions lead to up to a quarter of match time being taken up by scrums.
I don’t claim this to be the ultimate solution to the plague of the 21st century game. The IRB do need to continue to work on making scrum-time a quicker, safer and more bearable experience. Realistically I understand that this law change is unlikely to ever be considered. All I ask is for you not to write this idea off without some consideration, because I do think this could have a genuine positive effect on the sport.
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