Planet Rugby

Squint feed continues to frustrate

07th May 2014 09:40

Share:

Will Genia Wallabies ABs scrum RC 2013

Infuriating: Squint feeds

Some nine months into the year-long IRB scrum trial, squint feeds at the set-piece remain an infuriating detractor of rugby.

The rugby world groans a collective sigh of exasperation whenever the sticky topic of how best to unravel the hopelessly tangled threads of the elite scrummage rolls around yet again.

For almost a decade, what should be one of the game's greatest assets, an old-fashioned, primitive, warts-and-all contest between two hulking sets of forwards has been labelled "not fit for purpose". No-one needs reminding of the unappealing and time-consuming blight on matches wrought by an endless spree of collapsed scrums, resets and dubious penalty awards.

But in recent months, it has become increasingly apparent that the IRB and its officials may benefit from having their own memories jogged in relation to their much-vaunted set-piece directive - one we'd all support were it properly and consistently enforced.

Some weeks ago, I watched a ridiculous exchange during a Super Rugby clash between two Australian franchises that perfectly illustrated the faltering standards.

As one scrum-half gleefully flung the ball in around the ankles of his second-row, the referee quite correctly blew up and awarded a free-kick to the opposition. The opposing skipper chose to scrum, whereupon his own number nine produced a carbon copy of his opposite number's wildly not-straight delivery. For all that the same referee was crouched down, eyes trained intently on the tunnel, the feed inexplicably went unpunished.

This is far from an isolated instance. If you don't believe me, watch a handful of games this weekend and tot up the number of wayward put-ins that are either missed or ignored in top-flight rugby.

Subconsciously, we often fall into the trap of believing that, because the IRB have said so, squint feeds are an endangered species, one being steadily hunted to extinction by referees who do work extremely hard on this particular nuance.

We can cast our minds back to the first Rugby Championship game under the directive, where Craig Joubert proved wonderfully stringent in his application of the squint feed crackdown, and two of the world's best scrum-halves - Aaron Smith and Will Genia - were shell-shocked, delivering the ball with all the conviction of a newborn lamb, so accustomed were they to lobbing it in however they pleased.

There should of course be some margin of leeway for half-backs, some advantage to the side with the put-in. After all, they are not the team to have made the error or committed the infringement to bring about a scrummage in the first place.

It's important too to appreciate just how much match officials have on their plate at scrum-time. There's an all-you-can-eat buffet of binding, driving angles, height, distance apart, feet position, engagement, stability and offside line referees must chow down before laying hands on dessert in the form of the put-in and its supervision.

Prior to the directive's global implementation in August last year, several on the Elite Panel remarked their "priorities were elsewhere". Without the more segmented calling sequence, they simply weren't able to police the feed effectively.

"If you got to look at one, then well done!" exclaimed one recently retired official.

Indeed, taking into account the controversy and minefield of opinions underpinning the scrummage, referees can be forgiven for simply wanting a slick, ball in-ball out transition. Certainly, that was the prevailing sentiment under previous regulations, where keeping the blasted thing up at all costs proved the crucial, overriding concern.

I do feel that, on the whole, things have improved in the set-piece since the directive was brought into effect - the scrum is a more cohesive beast than it was a year ago, the put-ins are not quite so apocalyptically crooked and the phased abolition of the "yes, nine" call at elite level is a positive step.

But the all-too-predictable slip from red-hot reffing to a lax stance on a maddening anomaly of the game that makes the tuneless mishmash of pipe music that blares over the Murrayfield speakers during breaks in play sound like Mozart is typical of many of its predecessors conceived by the governing body.

This directive was billed by many, myself included, as the "last chance to save the scrum". That is still the case, but the set-piece's rightful place in the pantheon of rugby will not be restored, nor its integrity safeguarded until the dreaded squint feed is properly addressed.

By Jamie Lyall

Forthcoming Fixtures
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Top 14
Saturday , August 30
La Rochelle vs Toulouse14:45
Castres vs BayonneCastres vs Bayonne Preview
Lyon vs Brive18:30
Grenoble vs Bordeaux-Begles18:30
Oyonnax vs Stade Francais18:30
Racing Metro Paris vs Toulon20:45
More Top 14 fixtures
Currie Cup
Saturday , August 30
Griquas vs Cheetahs15:00
Blue Bulls vs Western ProvinceBlue Bulls vs Western Province Preview
Eastern Province Kings vs Lions19:10
More Currie Cup fixtures
ITM Cup
Saturday , August 30
Counties Manukau vs Hawkes BayCounties Manukau vs Hawkes Bay Preview
Southland vs Otago17:35
North Harbour vs WaikatoNorth Harbour vs Waikato Preview
Sunday , August 31
Taranaki vs Bay Of Plenty14:35
Auckland vs TasmanAuckland vs Tasman Preview
Wednesday, September 3
Manawatu vs Bay Of Plenty19:35
Thursday , September 4
Otago vs Canterbury19:35
More ITM Cup fixtures
Recent Results
FixtureDetails
All times are local
Top 14
Friday , August 29
Clermont Auvergne 20 - 21 MontpellierClermont Auvergne vs Montpellier Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 32 - 22 SharksPumas vs Sharks Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Wellington 21 - 27 ManawatuWellington vs Manawatu Report
Thursday , August 28
Canterbury 48 - 3 NorthlandCanterbury vs Northland Report
Wednesday, August 27
Waikato 17 - 46 TaranakiWaikato vs Taranaki Report
Sunday , August 24
Manawatu 7 - 35 AucklandManawatu vs Auckland Report
Bay Of Plenty 27 - 56 TasmanBay Of Plenty vs Tasman Report
More ITM Cup results
Rugby Championship
Saturday , August 23
New Zealand 51 - 20 AustraliaNew Zealand vs Australia Report
Argentina 31 - 33 South AfricaArgentina vs South Africa Report
More Rugby Championship results
Top 14
Brive 6 - 21 Clermont AuvergneBrive vs Clermont Auvergne Report
Stade Francais 23 - 20 Lyon
Toulon 60 - 19 La Rochelle
Montpellier 20 - 17 GrenobleMontpellier vs Grenoble Report
Bordeaux-Begles 30 - 21 Racing Metro Paris
Bayonne 38 - 12 Oyonnax
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Blue Bulls 30 - 25 Eastern Province KingsBlue Bulls vs Eastern Province Kings Report
Western Province 27 - 14 LionsWestern Province vs Lions Report
Sharks 19 - 16 CheetahsSharks vs Cheetahs Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Northland 35 - 5 WellingtonNorthland vs Wellington Report
Counties Manukau 29 - 25 OtagoCounties Manukau vs Otago Report
More ITM Cup results
Top 14
Friday , August 22
Toulouse 35 - 6 CastresToulouse vs Castres Report
More Top 14 results
Currie Cup
Pumas 33 - 15 GriquasPumas vs Griquas Report
More Currie Cup results
ITM Cup
Waikato 27 - 58 CanterburyWaikato vs Canterbury Report
Hawkes Bay 29 - 26 TaranakiHawkes Bay vs Taranaki Report
Thursday , August 21
North Harbour 21 - 25 Southland
More ITM Cup results
Aviva Premiership Table
PosTeamPPts
1Bath00
2Exeter00
3Gloucester00
4Harlequins00
5Leicester Tigers00