It seems apparent that rugby is one of those sports that remains a bit of a ‘Brain-teaser’. Whoever I discuss rugby with; whether they be hardcore fans, keen viewers or claim to be vaguely intrigued by its goings on, they all, at some point, question the rulings and laws within the sport. To myself and many others I’m sure, we can remember and recall the rules as easily as our ‘A,B,C’, however, we actually take our own in-depth understanding of the game for granted. The countless occasions close friends have asked me the typical, ‘Why is the Linesman running back to where he kicked it?’. Firstly, I ensure to correct them on the term ‘Linesman’, because as we all know, it’s now ‘Assistant Referee’, but then I’d go on to explain, probably not particularly clearly, about the whole ‘you have to be in your 22…’. That’s why rugby will never be quite the global phenomenon like Football, Tennis or Golf, yet what continues to hinder its prospects of a further fan base seems to be this issue on certain law’s that repeatedly chip away at the RFU.
The recent season has alluded to such ‘annoyances’ within the game. The penultimate Round of the season down in Kingston Park highlighted the need for a law introduction to do with Ruck’s and the placement of the ball within that Ruck. I must have seen at least 4 Saracens players doing ‘the Conga’ behind the ruck at one point just so De Kock was able to carry out a Box Kick!
Here’s a list of laws, rulings or general changes that need to be implemented to help improve Rugby Union:
This may sound rather generalised, just like the ruling on Scrums perhaps, yet time after time we see the misinterpretation of Scrums from Referees and Assistant Referees alike. It makes you wonder how many Officials have actually been in the Scrum, particularly in the Front Row. The fact that sometimes players are called on binding, some of the time to do with being unable to grip because of the pure tightness of the shirts, is a given. However, what appears less clear-cut is who receives a Penalty for what when the Scrum collapses or similarly, the Front Row’s stand up. Some of the World’s finest Referee’s still get it wrong, which indicates that maybe the RFU rely too much on the Ref’s interpretation of a situation. The Lions Tour back in 2009 we saw a pretty strong Springboks pack against a similarly macho Lions pack, yet the Boks appeared to dominate. What we didn’t see closely enough was the Front Row battle where there was possible boring in, early shoving, wheeling of the scrum etc. where it was pretty much impossible to see who was deserved of the Penalty. Therefore even though a heated, repetitive debate, the RFU must look at changing their stance on what’s intentional and what’s purely accidental.
Ruck, Truck & Trailer
As mentioned earlier, recently we’ve seen this extension of the back foot of a breakdown. Yes, its beneficial for a side to ensure easy clearance, yes, everyone’s doing it, but if you thought Ping Pong kicking was boring, talk about this. Not only do we lose 5 minutes of a game due to the re-setting of Scrums, we must lose another 5 after all the ‘hanky panky’ trying to make the ruck more ‘beneficial to the attacking team’ as it where. It’s ridiculous, unnecessary and once again needs to be stopped or limited if fans are going to continue to watch what can be such a wonderful sport.
Not Releasing the Player
This isn’t to do with releasing the tackled player or rolling away, what I mean by this is the cheeky holding on off opposition players on the fringes of a Ruck or Maul to limit their movement in the next phase. This is a favourite trick of some professionals we’ve seen quite recently, particularly in the Heineken Cup (not mentioning names), and it’s one of those things that Referee’s seem to remain clueless to. In my opinion, it’s a blatant Yellow Card and such punishment should be given.
Dump Tackling/Illegal Tackling
This recently has become a major influence on the game, for example Sam Warburton’s tackle on Vincent Clerc in the World Cup and more recently Manu Tuilagi’s tackle on Danny Care, which received no punishment. A tender matter in which still needs improvement, how, I’m not quite sure. In addition to this though is the illegal tackling in reference to shoulder barges or failure to wrap the arms. As a player I’ve been on both ends of a big hit, and to this day believe that Rugby Bodies remain harsh on the matter. Shoulder Barging, not so much, that’s genuine foul play and deserve’s immediate attention, however a player’s failure to wrap their arms, in Physics terms, isn’t always possible. Recent games have shown the likes of the Tuilagi brothers, George Pisi and other players being pinpointed for such issues and it seems much more of a Pacific Islander’s trait, but actually, if you make a strong impact with an opponent, the force itself is enough to make wrapping your arms almost impossible. In all honesty though, this is one issue that remains debatable and not easily changeable.
‘Crouch, Touch, Pause, Don’t Engage you’ll hurt yourself!’
Another year goes by where we have another debate on whether Scrums are too dangerous. Unfortunately rugby is one of the more dangerous sports, if you choose to play it, you risk injury, and thats how it remains. The Scrum Call’s should remain, just enough of the re-setting!
13 Man Game?!
The recent idea that has seemed to have re-appeared its ugly head concerns the reduction of the Union code to a 13 man game. Personally, I think Union is such a great sport because it’s different and unique compared to League, removing the Flankers, Wingers, whatever would be a major loss to the game. What are your thoughts?
What remains a shining light of the sport however is its continuing ability to adapt, from the brilliant, pacey, skilful game of the 80′s to the powerful, aggressive and edge-of-the-seat-stuff of the 21st Century, Rugby is changing to suit its fans and for that we should be thankful.