drawings of muscles and exercise apparatus

Sunday, March 19, 2006

A solution to uncontested rugby scrums?

Writing in the Sky Sportzine English international rugby referee Steve Lander states that "It has long been an open secret amongst coaches, players and referees that the law" in relation to uncontested scrums "is open to 'manipulation'."

Uncontested scrums "change the shape of the game and the dominant scrum is effectively depowered. Furthermore, without the contest and the need to scrummage, back row players are free to close down space ... ." However, there is little that a referee can do to prevent manipulation of the law. "From a match official's perspective. if a coach, physio or player indicates that he is injured then he is injured. In terms of safety, it is as simple as that."

Lander points out that the law requires that "both teams must provide front row cover within the 22 players selected to replace the hooker on the first occasion for injury, blood, sin bin or sending off. Similarly, for either, but not both props on the first occasion for the same reasons."

"A coach has complied with law if he has replaced a hooker and prop on the first occasion. If the team cannot provide a suitably trained player for a subsequent injury to a prop or hooker" he is entitled to request uncontested scrums.

I suggest that the problem can be virtually eliminated at least at the professional level by requiring teams to nominate a 23rd player as "designated front row substitute." The player would have to be physically capable of taking any of the front row positions.

The designated substitute would only be entitled and required to take the field if the normal substitution possibilities for either hooker or prop positions had been exhausted. The first circumstance in which they would enter the game would be if both the hooker and the reserve hooker had left the field "for injury, blood, sin bin or sending off." The other circumstance would be if two of the three players chosen as props or reserve prop had left the field for any of the same reasons.

If such a requirement were introduced, uncontested scrums would be almost eliminated and the opportunity for coaches of teams with inferior scrums to exploit the laws would be removed.

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