Do spectators even care about the scrum?

Maroon1959 Roar Rookie

By Maroon1959, Maroon1959 is a Roar Rookie

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    The Wallabies forwards are continually outclassed - but the opposition gets a little help from the refs. (Photo: Paul Barkley/LookPro)

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    During his recent visit to Australia, Brett Gosper, CEO of the International Rugby Board, is reported to have voiced his concern about the “enemies of continuity” in the game of rugby.

    A viewing of any game at the elite level will produce evidence his concern is well placed.

    It is a well-established fact that the time the ball is in play seldom exceeds 35 minutes out of the allotted 80. The laws of the game, their interpretation by the referees and the response of players and coaches are all responsible for some of the time wasted.

    Recently, Andrew Slack drew attention to this state of affairs in his Sunday Mail article. The culprit in the examples he gave was the scrum, where collapses and re-sets resulted in extended periods where no pass was thrown (and no player ran with the ball).

    When the issue of the scrum is raised in any gathering of rugby watchers it is fairly certain that vigorous debate will follow and solutions for fixing its problems will be expounded.

    Many rugby adherents have a view of what is going wrong and what should be done about it.

    The IRB continues in its efforts to find a workable solution but as yet, none of the changes instituted can be judged successful.

    A comparison of the scrums in the first Test against the British and Irish Lions with those in the three games of the 2001 Lions tour illustrates the point that little progress has been made in the effectiveness of the administration of the scrum.

    A lower percentage of scrums were completed; there was a decrease in the percentage of scrums that are stationary when the ball was fed in; the time per scrum has doubled and the number of penalties has shown an alarming increase.

    These statistics for the 2013 Test mirror the result for the 2013 Six Nations competition. Followers of the game will have different views about whether this is relevant and whether it matters.

    While the scrum is a part of the game about which all rugby followers have definite opinions, there seems to have been little attention given to documenting those opinions. As a consequence we do not know if the rugby watching population is really concerned about the scrum’s influence on the structure of the game.

    Fortunately, in an effort to produce some consolidated evidence of the opinion of players and spectators, Griffith University is currently undertaking an online research project with the distribution of a survey of opinion.

    The survey addresses several issues:

    Is the scrum essentially the heart of the game or could it be dispensed with?
    Are the laws relating to the rugby scrum effective in regulating how scrums are conducted, and are they clear and easily understood by those who play or watch the game?
    Do the laws and the way they are interpreted by the referees provide adequate safety protection for the players?
    Are scrums conducted in a manner that upholds the objective of fair play?

    The objective of the Griffith University study is to contribute to the process of improving understanding and enjoyment of rugby and to add to the context in which the lawmakers make changes. The survey is open to anyone interested in the game, takes about 15 minutes to complete anonymously, and is available here.

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    The Crowd Says (101)

    • Roar Pro

      June 26th 2013 @ 3:18am
      Football United said | June 26th 2013 @ 3:18am | ! Report

      SCRUMS ARE RUGBY. The scrum has been there since day dot and it’s once again only Australians who whinge about them because they are crap at it, same goes for penalty goal kicking. It is the most identifiable and unique aspect of Rugby Union and those knocking it really are watching the wrong sport. It provides the most pure contest of strength and teamwork between sides and is a a pillar to the game’s ability to cater for players of all shapes and sizes.

      If anything had to be changed it would be time off between resets, from the collapse of the scrum to the hit of the reset. The only other possible thing i would consider exploring would be the removal of the hit to reduce the chance of injury but i am unsure of how to either work this or even if i would want it.

      • June 26th 2013 @ 4:25am
        matthew said | June 26th 2013 @ 4:25am | ! Report

        Agreed Football. The time-keeping is the issue. If only the actual set-piece contest as the players engage was factored into time we wouldn’t have an issue; but it’s the wasted time getting things ready and the clock still rolling after a set-piece goes down that causes frustration and wastes everyones time.

        Apart from that the scrum is perfect. Fantastic asset to rugby as long as time isn’t leaking away needlessly without any contest taking place.

        • July 13th 2013 @ 4:09pm
          Viv Litllewood said | July 13th 2013 @ 4:09pm | ! Report

          Of course the scrum is an integral part of the game but not the MAIN part (which is to pick up the ball and run with it). Collapses will continue while a ton of humanity crashes into another ton at the engagement. Why not try the schoolboy rule for the engagement then, once the ball goes in, the two front rows can wrestle for dominance. This would also reduce the risk of serious injury.

          I agree that the clock should stop once the ref has called for a scrum and not started again until the ball is put in. AND the old law of putting in the ball down the centre line and `without delay’ should be enforced (together with the same applying to lineout throw ins). Time should also be stopped once a player has indicated that he will attempt a kick at goal (the time some players take to make the kick is ridiculous).

          Although this is not part of this survey, here is a need to debate the rolling maul. A player carrying the ball at the rear of a maul is placing the players in front of him offside, and not permitting a maul to be pulled down makes defence against this ridiculous play impossible. I am showing my age when I consider that the whole breakdown mess would be cleared up by reverting to rucks only. As an ex ref I would hate to try and officiate the present breakdown laws.

          In summary, rugby is a great game being buggered up by too many stoppages and confusing laws.

      • June 26th 2013 @ 5:05am
        mania said | June 26th 2013 @ 5:05am | ! Report

        Football United+1. well said. i esp like the reference to the scrum being the key component to allowing all body types to play. to me this is why rugby is the ultimate team sport. diversity and inclusiveness of all body types.

        the scrum is a gesalt of 8 huge human bodies working together to drive with a single purpose. the team work that it takes to get a good scrum going takes lots and lots of practise.
        its a shame that a lot of teams would rather collaspe it than be driven back and try to recover or become better but thats why we’re in this state that we are now.

      • Roar Guru

        June 26th 2013 @ 5:24am
        biltongbek said | June 26th 2013 @ 5:24am | ! Report

        You bring tears to my eyes. I have written an article about the new scrum laws that will be implemented in the Currie Cup which starts one of these days. Not sure when or if it will be placed though.

        In short, the IRB is falling into the trap of where the Unions are going, more concerned with reducing the core values of rugby and more focused on providing what is deemed entertainment in an era where people are used to watching highlight reels and fast forwarding through the processes that make all the ball carrying possible.

        They should rather focus on ensuring the game doesn’t become a farce where the facet of play which occurs more in any game, the breakdown are less controversial and easier to understand and interpret for all and sundry.

        Rugby isn’t suppose to be all things to all people, those that keep wanting to change it should watch something else.

        Getting to the question of the scrum. Why does a team get a scrum or line out awarded?

        Simple really they get the benefit of a mistake made by an opponent, whether it was a knock or the other team deciding to end play by kicking the ball out.

        The same principal that applies in the line out should apply at scrum time. The team feeding decides when the ball is thrown into a line out, why does the team that gets the scrum feed not get the advantage of when the hit occurs?

        • June 26th 2013 @ 5:55am
          Billy Bob said | June 26th 2013 @ 5:55am | ! Report

          Biltong I would guess its to ensure a safe hit.

          • Roar Guru

            June 26th 2013 @ 6:03am
            biltongbek said | June 26th 2013 @ 6:03am | ! Report

            To be honest I think that is a fallicy. In all my playing days (we played under the laws I am talking about) I can’t remember one incident where there was an injury because of the hit.

            I am trying to think whether there has been any injuries due to the hit since and can’t think of any.

            • Roar Guru

              June 26th 2013 @ 12:22pm
              Wal said | June 26th 2013 @ 12:22pm | ! Report

              I agree most injuries I have witnessed are due to collapses. Or a Prop getting their positioning/Bind wrong and being twisted or bent in half by 2 tonnes. Neither of these occur very often at the professional level.
              Far more players are hurt in the tackle than the scrums.

        • Roar Guru

          June 26th 2013 @ 7:11am
          The Bush said | June 26th 2013 @ 7:11am | ! Report

          Agree re the breakdown/ruck. I would rather they fixed this before “fixing” scrums.

          My dream at the breakdown is no more flopping like fish on the ground and to see blokes on their feet trying to either counter ruck or protect the ball (on their feet!).

          If they fixed this I couldn’t care less about scrum collapses…

          • June 26th 2013 @ 9:35am
            Minz said | June 26th 2013 @ 9:35am | ! Report

            Personally, I think the rule against diving over a ruck is challenging – a lot of the time a player will lose their balance because the opponent being cleared out goes backwards too fast, or pulls back rather than resisting. Calling a penalty in this situation is harsh IMO, as the opponent clearly isn’t going to win the ball – why should it be a penalty if there’s no real contest? Challenging for the referees though.

            Having said that, there was some very impressive flopping by the Lions last night – their number 4 in particular was diving in like a dead fish thrown on a pile. Unusual to see it so blatantly these days.

            • June 26th 2013 @ 9:37am
              mania said | June 26th 2013 @ 9:37am | ! Report

              its legit to go to ground if your doing it while cleaning someone out. its going to ground when not cleaning out that the refs ping u for, though saying that ive seen refs penalise a player for an awesome cleanout where they lost their feet.

              • Roar Guru

                June 26th 2013 @ 11:13am
                The Bush said | June 26th 2013 @ 11:13am | ! Report

                For me mania, the blokes doing the cleaning out wouldn’t end up on the deck so often if the other player wasn’t already lying everywhere…

      • June 26th 2013 @ 8:07am
        Malo said | June 26th 2013 @ 8:07am | ! Report

        Don’t f$&k with the scrums and turn it into a league type farce. Keep the survey at the Uni

      • Roar Guru

        June 26th 2013 @ 9:02am
        jeznez said | June 26th 2013 @ 9:02am | ! Report

        Nice one FU – in full agreement.

        Find it funny that Griffith Uni is performing the study – are they doing it internationally or just asking the majority of Aussies who follow a different sport as their primary passion and union as a secondary one what they think? Might get a very skewed result.

        • June 26th 2013 @ 1:20pm
          Markus said | June 26th 2013 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

          Are you happy with the scrum engagement process in Rugby Union in its present form?
          1) Yes
          2) No
          3) Union? That’s the one played by all those Kings and Joeys private school ponces isn’t it?

        • June 26th 2013 @ 11:40pm
          maroon 59 said | June 26th 2013 @ 11:40pm | ! Report

          The survey does not prosecute a particular view of the scrum. It is an attempt to document the opinion of spectators and players. It is intended for distribution world wide because it is important what different watchers think about the issues.

          • Roar Guru

            June 27th 2013 @ 11:04am
            jeznez said | June 27th 2013 @ 11:04am | ! Report

            Is that the results will be distributed world wide or they will be collating data world wide?

            Will they be asking their questions in rugby forums or talking to the general populace.

            I’m genuinely interested in the scope – this could be an absolute farce if done with a narrow focus and in my mind will at best be of mild interest if a global rugby fanbase is effectively canvassed.

      • June 26th 2013 @ 9:07am
        nickoldschool said | June 26th 2013 @ 9:07am | ! Report

        Well said F.U.

      • June 26th 2013 @ 11:17am
        GWS said | June 26th 2013 @ 11:17am | ! Report

        Scrums are not rugby. They are a part of rugby. Its called running rugby not scrumming rugby. Personally i don’t want them gone just the penalties that arise from them.

        • Roar Guru

          June 26th 2013 @ 12:33pm
          Wal said | June 26th 2013 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

          Its just called Rugby,
          Running Rugby is just one of the styles you can play (Traditionally NZ, Aus, France and Wales)
          there is also the much maligned but equally effective 10 Man Rugby (England), Tight Forward Dominated (Arg)
          and more recently the Kick Chase game employed by the Boks and Bulls.

          This is the beauty of Rugby is it can be played in a variety of ways to suit the strengths of each team and their players. And the contest created at Scrums really make most of this possible as team fight for ascendancy.

          I have a few videos of the 80’s and 90’s and though scrum collapses were more of a rarity they were definitely heading the path of league without a set hit and momentum a bit of a lottery, the feeds were often a joke.

      • June 26th 2013 @ 11:24am
        reality bites said | June 26th 2013 @ 11:24am | ! Report

        This article and the University survey are redundant. New scrum laws are being introduced by the IRB as we speak.

      • June 26th 2013 @ 5:36pm
        abMerlin said | June 26th 2013 @ 5:36pm | ! Report

        Here Here!

      • June 27th 2013 @ 12:04am
        maroon 59 said | June 27th 2013 @ 12:04am | ! Report

        I am interested in the number of comments posted. However isolated comments about single issues on a website does not lead to the consolidation of opinion. It is more useful if particular opinions can be shown to have widespread support. I hope those who take the trouble to comment also take the trouble to look at the survey to see if they agree with the range of issues raised. I see no comment from people who have completed the survey.

        I would also be interested in published research that explores spectator and / player opinion about the scrum or other rugby issues.

    • June 26th 2013 @ 6:27am
      Reginald Munday said | June 26th 2013 @ 6:27am | ! Report

      No need to get rid of scrums. They just need to be better dealt with. After two resets a free kick should be handed to the side with the feed.

      • June 26th 2013 @ 9:36am
        Minz said | June 26th 2013 @ 9:36am | ! Report

        I like that as an idea – scrum penalties seem to be handed out more or less randomly a lot of the time, so why not make it easier and reduce the number of them?

        • June 26th 2013 @ 9:58am
          Handles said | June 26th 2013 @ 9:58am | ! Report

          So why wouldn’t the team with the feed drop the scrum, if it was weaker than the opposition? Defeats the whole purpose!

      • Roar Guru

        June 26th 2013 @ 12:41pm
        Wal said | June 26th 2013 @ 12:41pm | ! Report

        The problem is any changes are going to have weaknesses to exploit, And in this case if you have a crap scrum collapse twice and get a clearing freekick.

    • June 26th 2013 @ 6:46am
      Sailosi said | June 26th 2013 @ 6:46am | ! Report

      Scrums are rugby, therefore they are part of the game time.

      Comment from The Roar’s iPhone app.

      • June 26th 2013 @ 6:53am
        Bob Anderson said | June 26th 2013 @ 6:53am | ! Report

        Sure, but what about the time it takes to set them, re-set them, etc. Can’t this be sped up somehow? There just seems to be so much standing around in union waiting for play to re-start, not just for scrums but in general.

        • June 26th 2013 @ 7:37am
          formeropenside said | June 26th 2013 @ 7:37am | ! Report

          well,I suppose the backs are just standing around, but at least that means that they are not putting in ineffective kicks or dropping the ball cold. Anything which reduces the impact backs have on the game can only be good.

          • June 26th 2013 @ 11:25am
            GWS said | June 26th 2013 @ 11:25am | ! Report

            Really hope that is sarcasm.

            • June 26th 2013 @ 11:29am
              formeropenside said | June 26th 2013 @ 11:29am | ! Report

              why would it be sarcasm?

          • June 26th 2013 @ 11:53am
            Chivas said | June 26th 2013 @ 11:53am | ! Report

            I agree. If the backs are getting a bit chilly, wear a singlet. How many times has it happened, the backs are so inept, that forwards choose not to give them the ball. Especially on wet days when tracking backwards all day is hard work… As a

            Anyway it gives the backs a chance to stand around and whinge about the forwards, how the wind is messing up their hair and other important things.

            And nobody remembers the props who are doing the hard work. Just bending over is exercise for them.

        • Roar Guru

          June 26th 2013 @ 8:17am
          biltongbek said | June 26th 2013 @ 8:17am | ! Report

          Why must it be sped up? Rugby has followed this format for 100 years, nobody has complained about it until recently..improve handling skills, there will be less scrums then.

          • June 26th 2013 @ 8:37am
            Bob Anderson said | June 26th 2013 @ 8:37am | ! Report

            Well, I just hope it doesn’t turn into American Football with five seconds of play followed by 40 seconds of standing around.

            • June 26th 2013 @ 7:16pm
              Slane said | June 26th 2013 @ 7:16pm | ! Report

              It’s already like that. 35 minutes of actually running with the ball out of 80 minutes of game-time is the result.

          • Roar Guru

            June 26th 2013 @ 11:20am
            AdamS said | June 26th 2013 @ 11:20am | ! Report

            Scrums used to set and play out quickly, now a scrum seems to be an impromptu time out.
            Half the support staff are out there handing out drinks and crap giving the time wasting (rest for the fatties) some legitimacy.

          • June 26th 2013 @ 11:25am
            reality bites said | June 26th 2013 @ 11:25am | ! Report

            Not true. 100 years ago scrums were very fast. The scrums have never been slower.

          • June 26th 2013 @ 11:27am
            GWS said | June 26th 2013 @ 11:27am | ! Report

            A fast game is a good game. Just because it worked 100 years ago doesn’t mean it can’t be improved.

          • June 26th 2013 @ 11:59am
            Chivas said | June 26th 2013 @ 11:59am | ! Report

            That’s rubbish. If that were the case, tell me WTF happened to rucks. Not only can you no longer put the slipper in, won’t be long before all players are required to play in a pair.

            • June 26th 2013 @ 12:03pm
              mania said | June 26th 2013 @ 12:03pm | ! Report

              “…play in a pair” which brings me to another point (i’m on a roll). since when have players been able to hit a ruck as a single person? i grew up being told i always had to be bound when hitting a ruck. i thought this rule had been dropped, but when bakkiesBotha got done for disloacting that guys arm fron hitting him whilst he was trapped in the ruck the law infringement they did him for was going in unbound. every one these days hits the ruck singularly

        • Roar Guru

          June 26th 2013 @ 9:00am
          jeznez said | June 26th 2013 @ 9:00am | ! Report

          Bob – most of the time that isn’t the scrums themselves – there seems to be an agreement that refs will allow players to go down and get attention before scrums.

          Yes there is the occaisional poor performance where scrums are reset/collapse/reset/collapse but that is pretty rare these days. My big gripe is that players needing attention from trainers wait until a scrum is awarded before going down near by so the ref has to stop play. If it is a lineout I guarantee the ref says we play on.

    • Roar Guru

      June 26th 2013 @ 6:57am
      Cameron Treloar said | June 26th 2013 @ 6:57am | ! Report

      The Scrum has to remain a competitve, major part of the game. It is a major basis of attack in Rugby. It is a major basis of asserting dominance. It is a cornerstone of Rugby. There are things that can help. I think if a scrum is collapsed but the ball is waiting there at feet of the number 8 it should be made to be played straght away. The ref of the test Lions test match did this pretty well last Saturday I thought. There is nothing worse than the scrum basically being over, the ball being won and someone loses their footing and we have to reset again. Get on and play it.
      On the injury front in terms of the hit. I’ve has a quite a few team mates now who have had back problems and operations due to the repetitive collusions in the scrum. If the new binding laws to come in, which we are playing this season in France, of the props having to keep the bind at the touch call can minimise the impact on spines and neck while still keeping the scrum competitive and important then it has happen.

      • June 26th 2013 @ 7:03am
        mania said | June 26th 2013 @ 7:03am | ! Report

        have to agree with biltongbek on the hit.
        cameron are your mates absolutely sure that their back injuries solely came from the hit at scrum time? not bad technique, or collasped scrums or a life time of bad posture. seems a long stretch to credit their injuries to one single aspect of the game and be absolutely positive that that was the single cause.
        i played in the front row and have no back injuries. i have friends who never played in the forwards with back injuries.

        • Roar Guru

          June 26th 2013 @ 7:15am
          Cameron Treloar said | June 26th 2013 @ 7:15am | ! Report

          Not 100% sure if it was only from hits. Scrums in general I think. These guys were long time professionals. Sure heavy squats etc in the gym has been a factor as well.

          • June 26th 2013 @ 7:19am
            mania said | June 26th 2013 @ 7:19am | ! Report

            theres gotta more to it than just scrums. i say that because u pretty much know right away when you hurt your back whilst scrummaging. and scrummaging has never been an RSI type activity.
            yeah getting hurt doing heavy squats with bad technique is much more damaging and common than a hard hit in a good scrum.

            • June 26th 2013 @ 9:12am
              Bakkies said | June 26th 2013 @ 9:12am | ! Report

              ”The ref of the test Lions test match did this pretty well last Saturday I thought. There is nothing worse than the scrum basically being over, the ball being won and someone loses their footing and we have to reset again. Get on and play it.”

              I am not sure. Some of those collapses weren’t accidental and should have been penalties. When pitches are soft and digging up like they were in the Six Nations refs have to move them regularly to a safe spot. That takes time.

            • June 26th 2013 @ 1:58pm
              Working Class Rugger said | June 26th 2013 @ 1:58pm | ! Report


              Ever play Prop? If so, you’d understand the degree of jarring that occurs through your body and down the spinal column when two packs collide in the manner they do at the scrum with the current hit. They’d have a lot to do with the back issues in the future.

              The forces are well in excess of a heavy session of squats with bad technique.

    • June 26th 2013 @ 7:23am
      Adsa said | June 26th 2013 @ 7:23am | ! Report

      Scrum time stays, just fix up rucks by allowing to ruck a player over the ball and you have less scrums. Watching the last Lions series showed how beautiful the game was with rucking.

    • Roar Guru

      June 26th 2013 @ 7:32am
      Cameron Treloar said | June 26th 2013 @ 7:32am | ! Report

      The defintely weren’t injuries caused at one moment of impact in particular. There were due to repetitive collusions and compressing of the disks in their backs over a number of years.

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