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Loose Pass

26th August 2013 14:19

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Will Genia Wallabies ABs scrum RC 2013

New scrums: Plenty of confusion

This week we will mostly be concerning ourselves with the scrum, the Currie Cup and foul play...

Another week, another brace of victories for New Zealand and South Africa. But both of a very different nature to last week.

Argentina were unrecognisable from the shapeless lot that capitulated in Soweto a week ago, as were the Boks, who seemed to have forgotten their aggression at times. New Zealand were their usual efficient selves, but Australian rugby is now in a deep trough.

Eleven Bledisloe Cups have come and gone since the last time a gold-shirted hand was laid upon it, a run which looks unlikely to end any time soon.

Ewen McKenzie, admitting defeat last week, was significantly more specific in his appraisal this week, pointing at the scrums and the confusion. It's been an Achilles heel for Australia for some time now, it's only getting worse.

But are the new rules causing confusion?

They are certainly causing a lot of thought. This column has spoken to a three good standard domestic referees the past week to ask what they find the most challenging. The bind came out number one with all three, with all agreeing that the pre-bind was difficult to sustain after the collision, but that the scrum destabilised a lot if the props opted to shift their bind after the collision. Two of the referees said they felt compelled to whistle a penalty under these circumstances, while the third said he was spending too much time looking at this specific aspect and trying to see if it was a penalty or a reset.

All three also felt that props often ended up in a position where they were looking as though they might be dragging a scrum down by default, indeed, that props often had nowhere to go if the collision rendered them unstable, or to put it bluntly, no legal way of putting a scrum right themselves if they felt the need to.

All of which rather ties in with what Ewen McKenzie is saying: "I used to be able to work it out but I can't tell you what is a penalty and what isn't. I've got no idea and I used to play in the front row and I'm lost." We have to confess, looking back at the video of Saturday's game, we were at times too.

Yet all three referees felt that, in time, the scrum would get better. For now.

To directly quote one: "...coaches will have a look at that bind situation and will come up with a technique that props can use to their advantage, which produces a stable scrum, and which is legal. And shortly afterwards, everybody will be using it. And we'll all be enjoying it for a while. Shortly after that, some will start abusing it and others will not enjoy it so much any more. And then, I suppose, we get more law changes.

Plus ca change...

The new scrum laws begin, dare we say, in earnest this week in the Premiership and Pro12 (regrettably, your correspondent has not seen enough Top 14 to give an appraisal of how the French are doing with them) so perhaps in a fortnight or so we'll know a little more about how the new laws are going down (pun not intended).

But for now, observers seem to be viewing the process in very black and white terms. The reality is far more complicated than that.


Meanwhile, back in South Africa, there are some very peculiar goings on in Blue Bull country.

Not only has there been a mass exodus of established players from Pretoria, there has also been a dearth of new signings to replace them. Then there's an absolute caning - at home - from local rivals the Golden Lions to back up a limp win over the Griquas and a creditable draw at Western Province.

But the crowning glory is not one, not two, but three tries scored by visitors at Loftus resulting from visiting packs driving mauls into or towards' the Blue Bulls try zone!

Has the rugby world gone mad? Perhaps, but perhaps it is also a sign that, as with Toulouse in France, a great era for a flagship side is coming to an end.


Back to Argentina though, for in the next few days we will know just how much the Pumas were hurting from that defeat.

Citings for biting and gouging have come forth in the wake of the Mendoza Test, which are disturbing to say the least.

But here's the clip of the alleged gouge... well, can you see anything?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUcKVzcZE5A

There is a prevailing obligation to stamp gouging or any of that sort of thing out of the game, yes. But this is an incident that has made a lot of headlines, which from this angle seems to be much ado about nothing.

We hope that we are provided a little more evidence, particularly in the event of a 'conviction'. Crying 'wolf' or banding gouging accusations around will do the game very little good at all.

Loose Pass compiled by Richard Anderson

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