‘A farce’ – World Rugby slammed following law proposal that could negate Springboks’ main weapon

Colin Newboult
South Africa's Bomb Squad scrummaging against England in the Rugby World Cup 2023.

South Africa's Bomb Squad scrummaging against England in the Rugby World Cup 2023.

There are concerns that one of World Rugby’s new proposals will devalue the scrum and potentially take away part of what makes rugby union unique.

Several law amendments have been put forward and will be voted on in May as the governing body seeks to improve the sport as a spectacle.

In particular, they are looking to speed up the game and promote more positive play.

Law proposals

Several ideas have been proposed, including getting rid of the ‘Dupont Law’ loophole and forcing the ball to be played when a maul has been stopped once and not twice, as is currently the case.

Other laws, if implemented, will see a global trial of the 20-minute red card and the outlawing of the ‘croc roll’ clearout.

However, there has been anger, especially from South Africans, over one particular proposal that will prevent teams from calling a scrum when they have already won a free-kick at a scrum.

Although sides will still be allowed to ask for that set-piece when an initial free-kick or penalty has been awarded, they cannot then call for another scrum if the referee gives a free-kick.

As a result, there are worries that sides with a weaker front-row will purposefully manipulate the situation to make sure that the opposition do not gain a significant advantage from it.

“While I get that scrums can slow down a game and need to be reset faster, taking the contest out of it makes rugby a farce. It is an integral part of the game,” South African journalist Brenden Nel wrote on X, formerly Twitter.

“So if you have a weak scrum, just bind early, give away the free-kick and then you can’t scrum. Or do I have it wrong?

“Again Rugby continues to tinker and tinker, and make it more difficult to know which laws are new. The 50-22 has been a good one, but goalline dropouts for instance, are a farce.

“But lets keep on changing and changing until the essence of rugby is lost…”

World Rugby plan to rollout ‘global trial’ of controversial 20-minute red card in disciplinary shake-up

The 2nd Row added: “With the free-kick at a scrum not going to a scrum, teams will force those free-kicks because it’ll be worth the warnings to depower an opposition scrum & lessen the impact on the game.

“If World Rugby want to create more space on the pitch, creating an environment where 18 players are in a small area creates more space for others.

“Also more scrums tires players out so there are gaps.”

Onus on the referees

If it is pushed through then referees will certainly need to be even more hot on those that are trying to bend the rules at the set-piece.

Currently, match officials do upgrade to penalties if a side is regularly getting it wrong on a technical level – for example, they are consistently pushing too early – but there are a few different free-kick offences teams could go to.

Springboks supporters were certainly not happy on social media, with one writing: “So basically, how best can we mitigate the Springboks’ main strengths?”

Another person added: “Teams can now deliberately collapse scrums because the worst that can happen is a free-kick. Basically, scrums are uncontested now. It disgusts me.”

Some have also claimed that World Rugby risk making it too much like the 13-a-side code.

“Scrum/free-kick: side with weaker scrum goes for early engage, concede free-kick, get ball back at resulting kick? Some of us actually like the multi-faceted Union game,” David Bunyard wrote.

“I repeat; if you want to watch Rugby League please do, it’s great. Just don’t wreck Rugby Union!”

READ MORE: World Rugby reveal plans to depower scrums and close ‘Dupont Law’ loophole