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Man of Kent

The Slow Death of the Rugby League Scrum

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41 minutes ago, Blind side johnny said:

Then we disagree. "Proper" scrums consisting of seriously honed athletes would simply be begging for an accident to happen. I see this as neither sensible nor responsible.

There is clearly a need for changing or improving these restarts and for finding some better form of competition for the ball but I can't see this to be found by looking backwards to what is becoming an archaic practice. I take no interest in nor follow RU but I do believe that they have been facing similar problems of their own in attempting to retain scrummaging whilst controlling its inherent dangers.

There is far more danger (in both codes of rugby) in the tackle than in the scrum.

This story tells the circumstances of 12 players who have died while playing Rugby Union in the last decade. Where there was an injury to blame, they were all caused by head trauma... either tackles or head clashes. None were due to a scrum related injury. 

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.walesonline.co.uk/sport/rugby/rugby-news/stories-men-women-children-killed-15199636.amp

Look, this is horrible and I hesitate a little to post it because I don't want to be sensationalist but the bottom line is if health and safety were a consideration we simply wouldn't play Rugby at all.

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9 hours ago, Damien said:

I certainly agree with your first paragraph  and not many are arguing for a return to the scrums of the 70s. What people have said they want to see certainly will not lead to what you are suggesting. A more competitive scrum where forwards are properly bound does not equate to some sort of 50/50 random toss of the coin. Neither in the days of players retreating 10 yards behind the play the ball are teams going to boot it straight over the side on the 30m line and potentially be defending a set of 6 close to their line and repeat sets from goaline dropouts. My formative RL years were the dying days of the competitive RL scrum and I genuinely never remember thinking to do that as a player. They were an age away from the truly competitive days but players were still bound, still pushed and you were still penalised for blatent feeding. You had a slim chance of winning a scrum against the head but it was certainly possible. I would be in favour of returning to something more akin to that.

For some reason people that want rid of the scrum are arguing for its removal by saying the alternative of a more competitive scrum is some sort of doomsday scrums of the 70s/RU mess. Most people who want scrums to stay do not want that either. What they want are some basic rules to be followed, which will create more space for the backs by keeping players in the scrum and introduce a little more competition for the ball by at least feeding in the middle tunnel. 

Some people like the 40/20 because it adds some unpredictably and rewards risk taking. It could easily be argued that the kicking team should not be guaranteed possession just because they have booted the ball onto touch. It is a fudge and a rule change to address the criticisms the game faces that it is repetitive, criticisms caused by successive rule changes designed to eliminate much of the competition for the ball. Yet I'm certain some of those same people who favour the 40/20 want the scrum scrapped, when a few improvements to the scrum can create the same and arguably be fairer than a 40/20, and are using arguments that could easily apply to that too.

Our positions seem to be broadly similar apart from differing predictions of the effect of unpredictable scrums on the tactics teams will employ.

My first season was 1980/81, and standard practice on sixth-tackle was - defending winger dropped back to deter a longer kick, team in possession made sure they were near the touchline after 5 tackles, then hammered a low-trajectory kick for a gain of about 10 to 15m. And such a kick produced a desultory round of applause which was just a hangover of the values of unlimited tackles days.

This was also with a 5m offside line where yardage was harder to make. If you take where typically a team will now be on tackle 6, which is roughly half-way, I would say that an extra 10 to 15m with a 50/50 chance of regaining possession is the best option. So would it be a 50/50 chance? I saw many a game where, largely through feeding penalties, it would have been a lot better than 50/50.

If scrum contests make sense it will logically follow that one team will be better at winning them than the other, and this is the team who will ensure there`s a scrum at the end of most sets, and totally dominate possession. I wouldn`t mind this if they were packing correctly and only pushing the opposition off the ball. But that is not what used to happen. The push was more in the direction of the touchline than the opposition goal-line.

I`m generally happy with the game as it is now, but I have some sympathy with those who cite the late-80s/early-90s as good to watch. Worth remembering that this was the period when referees stopped consistently enforcing the feeding rule with the effect that the logic of limited possession was able to flourish.

 

Edited by unapologetic pedant
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6 hours ago, ELBOWSEYE said:

I played league in competetive scrums and union ( when serving a ban) and the biggest difference was the stability the flankers gave thr scrum, without them it would have followed a league scrum in appearance. 

In the Auckland RL livestream game last weekend the ref made both front rows pack and bind correctly, and didn`t allow the feed until they had done so in all but one scrum. When this happens the current RL scrum is visually better than the mess of yesteryear, more horizontal and parallel to the goal-line, not skewing towards the touchline. It can be perfectly stable without flankers.

One of the teams even attempted a bit of push. Which of course prompted their opposition at the next scrum to feed at an even wider angle. 

And the RU flankers don`t stop all the collapses.

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Before the lockdown in 2020 in Super League (according to stats on Super league website) we have had 4 40/20s across all 12 teams with 4 teams on 1 each. When you compare this with attacking kicks in general play the comparisons are outstanding in the same period there have been 719 attacking kicks across Super League, with Warrington top of this list strangely Hull KR are 2nd, more obvious is that Toronto are bottom. Drop goals wise we have 6 so far not surprisingly Hull FC top that list with 3.

Without becoming too American about it with stats etc it seems that space is there towards end of sets after the 40 metre line, as kicks are happening and usually unless time is pressing you wouldn't kick until at least 4th tackle with DGs coming when the kicker is ready and only tactical play (to get 2/3 scores ahead). Also what that stats don't tell you is how many of the kicks were completed, in a sense that their teammate caught the ball or how many it was their tactic to get 5 drives and kick. 

Scrums in league although coaches will try to take advantage of the opportunity with less attackers realistically unless you have a special play the first set will be halted. Are 40/20s not being encouraged as too much risk? You could easily launch it back to the kicker stood on 35 meters to kick a 40/20 as a tactic but getting it wrong isn't the best and doesn't encourage them. Could the scrum be replaced with penalty options either a tap or kick to touch with a tap to follow?

The whole idea of bringing in the tap after a successful 40/20 was to speed up play and give reward to the attacking team. Under the current guise of other scrum restarts, yes the ball is handed back but 35 seconds to form a scrum means the defending team can easily setup and defend

A tap or kick to touch and tap after infringement could easily open rewards for the attacking team. As to the ones saying that it will speed up the game too much, the team can only play to its slowest player if more missed tackles due to being tired there are likely to be more tries which is ultimately what most league viewers want to see. 

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Just watching the Wales v Western Samoa 1995 World Cup again. Back then even the scrums were several magnitudes better than what we have now. Players tightly bound until the ball is out, feeding to your side but nothing like today and a little pushing. I wouldn't say competitive but obviously more so than today hence the pushing to stop a team trying to win the ball against the head. I would be delighted to get back to something similar today, which really shouldn't be too difficult to do. They certainly weren't messy, didn't result in countless penalties and weren't a blight on the game either.

Edited by Damien
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7 hours ago, Damien said:

Just watching the Wales v Western Samoa 1995 World Cup again. Back then even the scrums were several magnitudes better than what we have now. Players tightly bound until the ball is out, feeding to your side but nothing like today and a little pushing. I wouldn't say competitive but obviously more so than today hence the pushing to stop a team trying to win the ball against the head. I would be delighted to get back to something similar today, which really shouldn't be too difficult to do. They certainly weren't messy, didn't result in countless penalties and weren't a blight on the game either.

Completely agree.  All we need is to return to something that isn't so embarrassing.

And there is a collective blame for letting it get to this point.

Players push the boundaries with the laws and just want 'win' possession.

The ref's let them push and push the boundaries

The games administrators turned a blind eye.

And us fans said the scrum doesn't matter so let's not worry about them.

 But they are a laughing stock and we need to face facts that it makes our sport look stupid.

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1 hour ago, Dunbar said:

Completely agree.  All we need is to return to something that isn't so embarrassing.

And there is a collective blame for letting it get to this point.

Players push the boundaries with the laws and just want 'win' possession.

The ref's let them push and push the boundaries

The games administrators turned a blind eye.

And us fans said the scrum doesn't matter so let's not worry about them.

 But they are a laughing stock and we need to face facts that it makes our sport look stupid.

Fans are not blameless. When I first started watching I stood at home games with a group who bellowed "Feeding" at every away team put-in. This translated as "Give our team the ball. We don`t care about the shambles, don`t care whether it makes sense, don`t care whether it`s fair, just give our team the ball". 

Nobody ever wanted to examine the basics of the scrum, how it could be stabilised in itself and the rules devised to fit with the limited possession game. Hence refs and administrators deemed it the least fraught option to just let it wither.

Edited by unapologetic pedant

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18 hours ago, unapologetic pedant said:

In the Auckland RL livestream game last weekend the ref made both front rows pack and bind correctly, and didn`t allow the feed until they had done so in all but one scrum.

The one below? 😉 

To be honest the scrums here are doing little more than giving the forwards a rest.

There’s some benefit in that for the players - they aren’t professionals and could do with a breather - but as a viewer I couldn’t honestly say that the spectacle is enhanced by a pernickety ref making sure the scrum is bound properly, particularly when the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

Just bin ‘em.

 

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6 hours ago, Man of Kent said:

The one below? 😉 

To be honest the scrums here are doing little more than giving the forwards a rest.

There’s some benefit in that for the players - they aren’t professionals and could do with a breather - but as a viewer I couldn’t honestly say that the spectacle is enhanced by a pernickety ref making sure the scrum is bound properly, particularly when the outcome is a foregone conclusion.

Just bin ‘em.

 

I mentioned the scrums in this game as a contrast to both the Andrew Voss picture posted earlier in the thread and the mess of the past. Admittedly it was only the different appearance that struck me, not the substance.

Why "pernickety"? This is the problem now. When so many scrum rules are not enforced it can be seen as "pernickety" when any are.

And again it`s a fair question that if scrums being foregone conclusions (by which I assume you mean that we know which team will get possession) means they`re pointless, why are no RU fans urging "just bin `em".

 

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Contested scrums are no more in RL world. The game has progressed using the  laws of the game.

You can’t produce youngsters based on the game 30 years ago. When they are now following the new game.

End of.

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8 hours ago, unapologetic pedant said:

Why "pernickety"? This is the problem now. When so many scrum rules are not enforced it can be seen as "pernickety" when any are.

And again it`s a fair question that if scrums being foregone conclusions (by which I assume you mean that we know which team will get possession) means they`re pointless, why are no RU fans urging "just bin `em".

 

Pernickety packing may have the unintended consequence of players trying to use it to take more of a breather, which is what we’re trying to get away from in terms of fatigue.

RU scrums aren’t a foregone conclusion. Just ask Eddie Jones. 

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1 hour ago, Man of Kent said:

Pernickety packing may have the unintended consequence of players trying to use it to take more of a breather, which is what we’re trying to get away from in terms of fatigue.

RU scrums aren’t a foregone conclusion. Just ask Eddie Jones. 

How are we defining "foregone conclusion"? How many RU scrums are won against the feed, other than via a penalty. If we even regard the award of a scrum penalty as a "win".

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1 minute ago, unapologetic pedant said:

How are we defining "foregone conclusion"? How many RU scrums are won against the feed, other than via a penalty. If we even regard the award of a scrum penalty as a "win".

Come on, dude.

RU scrums aren’t an automatic pop-in, pop-out, and off we go. Pushing makes them a genuine contest and an inferior scrummaging pack is a liability. Just ask Eddie Jones.

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9 minutes ago, Man of Kent said:

Come on, dude.

RU scrums aren’t an automatic pop-in, pop-out, and off we go. Pushing makes them a genuine contest and an inferior scrummaging pack is a liability. Just ask Eddie Jones.

Throughout this thread the following is what I`ve advocated for the RL scrum.

Front rows bind correctly, parallel to the goal-line. Non-feeding team banned from striking, restricted to pushing. Half feeds his hooker whose foot must make contact with the ball to be regarded as in play. Ball channelled out. Non-feeding pack push, with the ultimate aim of driving the opposition off the ball, but more likely to cause varying degrees of disruption to the quality of their possession.

This would not be "pop-in, pop-out, and off we go" and as you say "pushing makes them a genuine contest". And it strikes the right balance for limited tackles RL, where to win a repeat set or regain possession after committing an error, a team would have to achieve something that was difficult.

Your "just bin `em" is a counsel of despair. Understandable given what we have, and what we used to have, but judged by some criteria could just as easily be applied to the RU scrum.

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9 minutes ago, unapologetic pedant said:

Throughout this thread the following is what I`ve advocated for the RL scrum.

Front rows bind correctly, parallel to the goal-line. Non-feeding team banned from striking, restricted to pushing. Half feeds his hooker whose foot must make contact with the ball to be regarded as in play. Ball channelled out. Non-feeding pack push, with the ultimate aim of driving the opposition off the ball, but more likely to cause varying degrees of disruption to the quality of their possession.

This would not be "pop-in, pop-out, and off we go" and as you say "pushing makes them a genuine contest". And it strikes the right balance for limited tackles RL, where to win a repeat set or regain possession after committing an error, a team would have to achieve something that was difficult.

Your "just bin `em" is a counsel of despair. Understandable given what we have, and what we used to have, but judged by some criteria could just as easily be applied to the RU scrum.

A full-on six-man heave with a ‘heel’ from the hooker is a lovely thought ‘n’ all but it’s no more than a counsel of a fantasist.

My ‘counsel of despair’ as you call it is borne out of the realisation that we aren’t going back to scrums you suggest - even if they are in the law book (which I don’t believe they are, cf. feeding the hooker). Just bin ‘em.

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40 minutes ago, unapologetic pedant said:

Your "just bin `em" is a counsel of despair. Understandable given what we have, and what we used to have, but judged by some criteria could just as easily be applied to the RU scrum.

I would guess that many on here are old enough to remember this when the RFL decided to clamp down on scrum infringements. Hookers were sent to the bin willy nilly for about six weeks then everything just seemed to come to a halt and we reverted to the usual untidy mess. It would seem from that experience that simply penalising infringements doesn't necessarily produce the required results.


Sport, amongst other things, is a dream-world offering escape from harsh reality and the disturbing prospect of change.

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1 hour ago, Blind side johnny said:

I would guess that many on here are old enough to remember this when the RFL decided to clamp down on scrum infringements. Hookers were sent to the bin willy nilly for about six weeks then everything just seemed to come to a halt and we reverted to the usual untidy mess. It would seem from that experience that simply penalising infringements doesn't necessarily produce the required results.

Yes I remember that but like many clampdowns (ie the touching the ball with foot at the play-the-ball at the beginning of the current season) they just last for a short while before coaches get fed up of  their own team being on the rough end of it and all is soon returned to as it was.

As said before, I think scrums are an integral part of our game and what non-rugby people can recognise as being an unique feature of it. Yes, we in the RL family might think they no longer serve as a competative act to gain possession but we are these days contantly being told that we need to sell the game via the means of television and so, to those watching it on there, scrums can still be looked upon as part of the game which shows a variety not included in most others.

Feed in the middle - only "non-offending" hooker to strike - only scrum-half to pick up at base.

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11 hours ago, Man of Kent said:

A full-on six-man heave with a ‘heel’ from the hooker is a lovely thought ‘n’ all but it’s no more than a counsel of a fantasist.

My ‘counsel of despair’ as you call it is borne out of the realisation that we aren’t going back to scrums you suggest - even if they are in the law book (which I don’t believe they are, cf. feeding the hooker). Just bin ‘em.

If we adopted the scrum rules I, and a few others, have advocated, we wouldn`t be going back as your allusion to the "law book" illustrates. These rules have never been in the book. And in practice scrums have always been either uncontested or a crass contest.

I don`t understand why you won`t objectively assess what`s being put forward since it`s very similar to the RU scrum which you do seem to recognise the value of. You just want rid, period. I suppose if the scrum nihilism is due to a lack of faith in our administrators to manage the process, I can`t but sympathise. But that does not mean it isn`t possible with wit and will.

Oh, and I overlooked earlier that you said "dude". Dear oh dear. Might come back to that.

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12 hours ago, unapologetic pedant said:

Throughout this thread the following is what I`ve advocated for the RL scrum.

Front rows bind correctly, parallel to the goal-line. Non-feeding team banned from striking, restricted to pushing. Half feeds his hooker whose foot must make contact with the ball to be regarded as in play. Ball channelled out. Non-feeding pack push, with the ultimate aim of driving the opposition off the ball, but more likely to cause varying degrees of disruption to the quality of their possession.

This would not be "pop-in, pop-out, and off we go" and as you say "pushing makes them a genuine contest". And it strikes the right balance for limited tackles RL, where to win a repeat set or regain possession after committing an error, a team would have to achieve something that was difficult.

Your "just bin `em" is a counsel of despair. Understandable given what we have, and what we used to have, but judged by some criteria could just as easily be applied to the RU scrum.

If the forwards bind, crouch and engage correctly neither hooker will be striking for the ball because of the angle of their bodies to the ground.  The only way a scrum will be won then is by pushing as in RU which is what I'd like to see in our game.

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3 hours ago, unapologetic pedant said:

I don`t understand why you won`t objectively assess what`s being put forward since it`s very similar to the RU scrum which you do seem to recognise the value of. You just want rid, period. I suppose if the scrum nihilism is due to a lack of faith in our administrators to manage the process, I can`t but sympathise. But that does not mean it isn`t possible with wit and will.

 

I think we should leave scrums to rugby union.

The more that we’re ‘rugby without the boring bits’ to attract new fans the better. 

Scrums cheapen rugby league to the newcomer as looks like we’re sort-of imitating union but in a perfunctory, purposeless, inferior way. Get rid.

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On 13/07/2020 at 19:17, ELBOWSEYE said:

I played league in competetive scrums and union ( when serving a ban) and the biggest difference was the stability the flankers gave thr scrum, without them it would have followed a league scrum in appearance. 

Absolutely

My daughter played U15 girls rugby union which used to be 13 aside with no flankers - to make the scrum stable and safe they had to amend the laws to ensure 2nd row binding was around the hip rather than between the legs of the props to "hold them in".

When they played a team from Hampshire (who due to the vagueries of RU had changed their mini's rules several years before other counties and so even the girls who had played with the boys had no experience of scrums AT ALL) the scrums had to go uncontested after the 2nd one as in both scrums the opposition prop was injured as their front row splintered apart with no flanker to hold thenm in and poor binding

 

Edited by SSoutherner

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8 hours ago, Big Picture said:

If the forwards bind, crouch and engage correctly neither hooker will be striking for the ball because of the angle of their bodies to the ground.  The only way a scrum will be won then is by pushing as in RU which is what I'd like to see in our game.

As i said before - if you went to "contested hook no shove" then you would have a more upright front row, with the other fwds just bound enough to control a hooked ball - that would ensure no early break of bind which give more space ot the backs and give a modicum of contest which would increase  "excitement"

If a hooker spotted the oppo's loose fwds were not binding paying attention on their put in the obvious tactic is to try and kick the ball fwd (easier than a hook against the head) chances are it would ping off a leg and be bobbling around making it harder for oppos half to deal with maybe leading to a Knockon

Edited by SSoutherner

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5 hours ago, Man of Kent said:

I think we should leave scrums to rugby union.

The more that we’re ‘rugby without the boring bits’ to attract new fans the better. 

Scrums cheapen rugby league to the newcomer as looks like we’re sort-of imitating union but in a perfunctory, purposeless, inferior way. Get rid.

The funny thing is some people find the repetitive 5 drives and a kick, with little variation or contest for possession, the boring bits.

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4 minutes ago, Damien said:

The funny thing is some people find the repetitive 5 drives and a kick, with little variation or contest for possession, the boring bits.

Swing low, sweet chariot! 😜

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13 hours ago, Man of Kent said:

 

I think we should leave scrums to rugby union.

The more that we’re ‘rugby without the boring bits’ to attract new fans the better. 

Scrums cheapen rugby league to the newcomer as looks like we’re sort-of imitating union but in a perfunctory, purposeless, inferior way. Get rid.

I broadly agree. However, as others have pointed out, the original purpose of the scrum was to challenge for possession. With the impending implementation of the "six again" rule we are in danger of reverting to the unlimited tackles scenario, which I personally believe would be unwelcome.

In other words changing or eradicating the scrums might well be a good idea but only within a review of its broader implications. We don't want to be altering the rules every verse end do we - that wouldn't be the RL way, at all.


Sport, amongst other things, is a dream-world offering escape from harsh reality and the disturbing prospect of change.

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