Laws making rugby messier


The more they change the laws, the bigger the mess – with referees and TMO’s making their own contributions.

Dan Retief, City Press

Recently, in the plethora of tests played in the UK and Europe, there have just been too many “pilot errors” and instances in which it was abundantly clear that the players were perplexed and not sure how to stay on the right side of the law.

It’s simply not good enough at matches in which millions of fans have a vested interest, huge finances are involved, and the careers of coaches and players are on the line.

The new scrum engagement sequence – in which “crouch, touch, pause, engage” gave way to “crouch, bind, set” – initially seemed satisfactory because it seemed to bring back the art of scrummaging.

But different interpretations by different officials have caused the set piece to degenerate into as much of a mess as it ever was.

There seems to be a lack of understanding of the immense forces involved when 16 heavy and powerful athletes clash head-on, and of the fact that the formation is actually meant to be a contest.

Props will always try to outdo each other and tactics often require twists and turns that manoeuvre one team into a dominant position – hence the fact that teams may be “binding”, but so loosely that they have again introduced a destabilising “hit”.

This is down to the leeway allowed by some referees, and the onus is on the IRB to require consistency. Another area of unpredictability is the breakdown – part of the game that has become a yellow card printing works.

One clear way to solve the problem is to eliminate the ridiculous situation in which the tackler is allowed to play the ball from an offside position. How can this be, when playing onside is a basic tenet of the game?

One thing’s for sure, the old refrain shouted from the terraces, “hey Mr Ref, open your eyes, you’re missing a great game!” has never been more true.

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  1. Try and imagine doing the job
    before judging.
    Its a learning curve for all 31 players
    on the pitch.
    He is there doing it.
    Not watching it being done.
    No team to share the pressure.
    It’s not a job i could do.
    I think the camera should help the ref simply because
    we used it to judge him.
    But there should be limits.
    Time becomes an issue.
    It’s not a question of “play on”.
    Their professionality or
    Lack of it,
    Is also on display.

  2. @Duiwel:


    I like Dan, one of the better writers around and a student of the game, but lately his columns seem to want to stir controversy more than anything. Maybe it’s an editor’s directive, who knows.

    Depowering the hit is the best thing they could bring into the game, but it’s only been introduced this year and to the back end of the year (internationally).

    As long as there has been rugby, there has been people complaining about refs.

  3. Refs need to spend time with clubs whilst
    The forwards scrum.
    Hulle moet die boor kan uit werk ,
    and we should stop with this
    “Killed a unique match ect….
    Robbed the public of pleasure “.

    If you score tries cleanly
    it is there.
    if you hash it
    or bosh it
    Within the rules
    It becomes difficult rugby.

    To play and to ref.
    The cleaner you play/precise execution ,
    the simpler it is to ref.
    The scrums are a contest
    So be it.
    But then it must be clear what type of contest
    and one set of standards for it.

  4. I dont think Dan’s frustration is as much with refs as it it with the seeming lack of directive from the iRB. But Duiwel is also right. No matter how imperfect- the laws still seem to favor the teams who best adhere to it.

    I personally FUCKING hate the breakdown suddenly becoming 70% of what rugby is about, not to mention illegal defeatist shit like the rolling maul, but the best team is still winning the most games.

  5. @Morné:

    Morne, unfortunately a lot of very high profile games at the end of the year were also played on subpar pitches which made scrumming very difficult. This led to weeks of reset scrums and penalties.

    I tried to watch the Toulon / Stade F game on the weekend and it was the same. Absolutely crap pitch with players sliding in the scrum and having reset upon reset upon reset.

    When you have an experienced guy like Carl Hayman losing his footing and slipping again and again you have to know something is seriously wrong.

    How the players can then be penalised when the pitch is not conducive to scrumming reflects the utter stupidity of certain refs (see the Bok Wales game for reference as well). It really is absolutely pathetic.

  6. Nice to see them play on a firm Twickenham.

    Yet another one of those brainfarts with
    both teams wearing black and white strips.