This week we concern ourselves with new scrum laws, strikes, the French and star turns…
This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with new scrum laws, strikes, the French and star turns…
Here we go again then. The latest tweak to scrum and scrum engage laws is set to be trialled this year, certainly in the ITM Cup, certainly in the Aviva Premiership, Top 14, RaboDirect Pro12 and Heineken Cup, probably in the Rugby Championship as well.
The new laws involve the call: 'crouch, touch, set' being changed to 'crouch, bind, set', and require the props to wrap their outside arm around their opponent before the engage.
We'll confess we have doubts. There seems to be an opportunity for all sorts of shenanigans involving arm-grabbing technique or weight leverage around the bind etc. etc. It won't take long for the masters to work out the 'cheats'.
But those in the know are behind the new laws… sort of. Mike Cron was sure the scrum would be more stable on average as a result, but was also sure that those packs not as explosive as his might reap a benefit.
“I don't think the weight will change on the boys, you've still go to do your job. It's just it's going to be a bit more upper body orientated than what we've got at the moment, and the best prop will still be the best prop,” he said.
“It does allow for the weaker link to survive a bit better, and we are probably catering for the weaker link. If that's what we have to do for the betterment of the game, well so be it.”
We'll see. The scrum is still not the wonderfully-co-ordinated clash of titans we'd all like to see. But then when was it ever? Do we even remember the ungainly piles of human being into which a ball used to be thrown in the sixties and seventies? Or before? It looks a lot better now.
We still have two tonnes of flesh, split into eight segments, piling into each other as hard as possible on a less than solid foundation. We are never going to get perfection on that basis. It's laudable to keep trying, and hopefully this works, but we are also hopeful that if this pre-binding arrangement does not work, the IRB will have the minerals to take a step back…
Has the global calendar just inched nearer? The All Blacks may take the extraordinary step of staging a strike this year, protesting at the burdensome calendar foisted upon them by the increase in Super Rugby, extra rounds of fixtures with Argentina now in the frame, June Tests and November tours.
New Zealand Players' Association head Rob Nichol warned of the looming strike action, saying that the International Players' Association meetings next month – conveniently being held during the Lions tour for the delegates – needed to be fruitful in terms of propositions to be taken to the IRB.
Steve Hansen was also making striking noises, saying a show of player power might have to be necessary.
“At the moment when it comes to the global season too many decisions are made around tradition rather than what is right for the athletes,” he said.
The global calendar is a long way off yet, there are just too many interested commercial parties with a say. But if the All Blacks are considering striking, you have to feel that the pressure is building.
Meanwhile in France… click here
Incroyable, non? Those crazy French…
Except hold on a minute… of the three sent off, how many were actually French? One. Is it the crazy French themselves or has France just become a place for players to earn a lot of money and let their psychoses out?
Finally, on a more melodious note, those who have seen the excellent video of the Lions tour from 2009 may remember a somewhat hollow guitar and vocals solo by Riki Flutey in front of one of the dining halls being one of the more random comic highlights of the show.
We might get a notch up this year, after Jamie Roberts was invited to be the Manic street Preachers' guest guitarist on the Melbourne and Sydney legs of their tour.
Roberts may have to pass on the appearances, with the gigs scheduled for the nights before the Melbourne and Sydney Test matches.
Roberts may thus have to settle for performing a few Manics songs to the rest of the Lions squad – perhaps in an unlikely duo with Alun Wyn Jones, who is a dab hand with a ukulele. And with former X-Factor contestant Matt Stevens weighing in with a few vocals, we might have one of the more musical Lions tours for some years…
Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson