Our friend Liat in Israel forwarded me an interesting article from New Zealand to share with all of you … an opinion column by two rugby writers on what they think is wrong with the international game. What do you think?
What’s wrong with our game?
What’s the biggest blight on the game of rugby?
Graham Henry has had his say on the problems facing the international game and now it’s our turn.
The All Blacks coach has lamented the increasing amount of time-wasting that is afflicting test rugby and says it is deteriorating the game as a spectacle.
He lists scrums, faked injuries and the dilly-dallying of the TMOs as areas that are frustrating fans and players by turning up the snore factor.
But surely there is more to this as rugby’s rule-makers look at ways of improving their product. Yahoo!Xtra Rugby writers Duncan Johnstone and Marc Hinton present their views on what is ruining the game at the moment.
The breakdown area – DUNCAN JOHNSTONE
Good on Ted for getting those gripes off his chest earlier in the week and I’m in full agreement – the stop-start nature of the game means it is suffering severely as an entertainment package and some teams certainly appear to be happy to exploit those areas to enhance their chances.
But for my 10 cents’ worth, I believe the breakdowns are the root of all evil when it comes to rugby.
In fact you could say that many of Henry’s concerns about the scrums and questionable injuries arise from breakdowns.
They are a by-product of the undecided rucks and mauls. Throw in the numerous penalties that stem from this controversial area of the game and it’s clear that something drastic needs to be done to clean up the battle for second phase possession.
They are such murky areas that, to my mind, the rule-makers might be better off allowing the breakdowns to be a free-for-all. Turn it into a wrestling contest where it’s winner-takes-all.
At the moment their attempts to use a gate at the back of the rucks as the only route of entry is ridiculous.
And let’s face it, these are rucks in name only. Rucking went out years ago – the skillful use of the boot to clear out opposition players is long a thing of the past.
It used to be a trademark of New Zealand rugby and its removal was just another way for the men in charge of the game up north to depower the All Blacks as are the ridiculous scrum engagement rules that have been introduced this year.
All this has led to is cheating. Players are lying all over the ball and the tackled player in attempts to slow the game down.
There’s that word again – SLOW. Rugby needs to speed up and with so much of its attacking play coming from multi-phases, the breakdowns are the area that need a turbo boost.
At the moment one of the worst sights in rugby is the ball being held in the back of a ruck by the last forward while the halfback pedantically surveys his options and then usually takes the most predictable one – setting up another forward drive for another ruck!
Make the rucks a gladiatorial contest where the biggest and fittest win. This isn’t a campaign to “bring back the biff’, just a plea return a bit of mongrel to an area that has been sanitised to the detriment of the game.
Sort that out and plenty of flow will return to rugby. And there might even be a few less scrums which would please Henry and the rest of us as well.
The scrum – MARC HINTON
It worries me to say this, for they’re such an intrinsic part of the game of rugby, but I can’t go past the scrums as the biggest problem area in the game right now.
And when you get a guy like Anton Oliver, a bloke who’s carved a living as a world-class practitioner of the darks arts of scrummaging, complaining that even he finds the set piece confrontation boring, well, the alarm bells should be ringing.
Let’s face it, how much time is wasted setting, resetting and re-resetting scrums in a modern game of professional rugby? Too damn much, I reckon. Minutes tick by and play is stuck in a sort of nightmarish time warp where two packs keep hitting the deck, then slowly get back to their feet, dust off their sprigs and, wham, hit the deck again. It’s Groundhog Day in the worst possible way.
Rugby, when it flows, when the ball is moved at pace, when crisp possession is won and sent through sets of hands, is a wonderful, wonderful spectacle.
When it grinds through interminable periods of inaction, particularly at scrum time, it’s a flat-out bore.
And, for me, one of the most annoying aspects of modern rugby is some pint-sized ref who’s clearly never stuck his head in a scrum in his life, lecturing two grizzled front rows on the finer points of their trade. But that’s what it’s come down to, as the whistle-blower tries in vain to keep these monsters on their feet.
The problem is that players are so big and strong and powerful these days, and so practised in the arts of deception it must be added, that it’s inevitable that you’re going to get a sort of Mexican standoff.
Sometimes no one’s to blame, other times someone clearly is, but it’s hard to work out who. So what you tend to get is a succession of scrums being set and the game going nowhere fast.
I don’t know what the answer is, for scrums are a vital part of rugby. If you take them away, or depower them, that’s the end of the shorter, powerful guy. There simply won’t be a place for him in the game.
Just like you need lineouts for the rangier bloke to have a place in the game.
But something needs to be done to keep props on their feet at scrum time, and the person who comes up with the solution there will be worthy of a gold star.
There is no finer sight in the game than a scrum working at peak efficiency, much like the All Black set piece has done of late. It’s the combined, tight, coiled might of eight men working together in unison.
But there’s also nothing more yawn-inducing than watching this arm-wrestle descend into high farce, as it does too often in the modern game. People don’t pay big money to watch what is in essence nothing.
The fans want to see the ball in play more, not less. So they want scrums that produce the hit, then the ball, in that order.
Perhaps it’s time to allow the ball to be cleared regardless of what happens at the impact.
I know it’s time for refs to rule and not try to coach.
It’s certainly SOS time. Save Our Scrums.
So what do you think, are these guys right about rucks and scrums? What do you think about the new four-count in scrum engagement?