‘They have killed the game’ – World Rugby slammed for ‘unhealthy obsession’ after depowering scrums

Jared Wright
Springboks v France scrum with Damian Willemse's iconic scrum call.

World Rugby's decision to remove the scrum option from a free-kick has not gone down well.

World Rugby’s decision to remove the scrum option from free-kicks has been met with widespread criticism as fans slam the governing body’s move.

On Thursday, World Rugby confirmed a host of ‘fan-focused’ law changes that will come into effect from July 1, 2024.

The two new law amendments, in addition to the scrum removal, encompass a revision to offside from kicks in open play – aka ‘Dupont Law’ – and a ban on the controversial ‘crocodile roll’ technique used to move a player away from the tackle/ruck area.

However, it’s the removal of the scrum option from free-kicks that’s causing the most uproar, sparking a heated backlash among rugby enthusiasts.

Many believe that the decision depowers strong scrummaging teams as the weaker scrum could concede a free-kick in order to avoid a penalty or the set-piece entirely, as teams would only be able to run or kick from a free-kick.

“Personally, I believe that the law amendments and suite of closed trials will add to the entertainment factor,” World Rugby chairman, Sir Bill Beaumont said.

“As with all trials, we will comprehensively review their effectiveness and take feedback from across the game.”

Reaction to law changes

While there are some that believe that the change is positive, the overwhelming response has been negative.

Springboks fans were particularly annoyed by the decision particularly after the iconic scrum call from full-back Damian Willemse after claiming a mark in his 22 during the Rugby World Cup quarter-final against France.

“World Rugby saw Damian Willemse call a scrum from a mark and said ‘enough of that’,” content creator Kooks Kuhle wrote on social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

For the love of scrums, World Rugby stop changing the laws!

Nigel Owens in agreement with South Africans as ex-referee bemoans World Rugby’s scrum proposal

Another Bok supporter added: “I guarantee you this law wasn’t even in consideration until the Boks audaciously called for a scrum from a mark. They’re not even hiding it at this point.”

Planet Rugby’s James While was also puzzled by World Rugby’s decision, noting: “Given what a dramatic & iconic moment this was when SA did it, I simply don’t understand the logic of the revision being fan-focused.”

The scrum-loving social media accounts were also rather miffed by the decision.

“World Rugby doing it’s best to remove the scrum from the game. It’s one of the things that makes union unique and something World Rugby should be embracing not trying to make the overall game into League Lite to keep some slack jawed yokels like Matt Williams happy,” Over The Hill Prop remarked.

Derek Alberts added: “Find me one fan that agrees with the scrum law, which will allow teams with weak scrums to easily avoid them. You have a sport for all sizes yet continue to ostracise blokes wearing 1-8. Stop this obsession with speed. If it were so in demand, League would be far more popular.”

Addicted to unnecessary changes

Another fan slammed World Rugby’s tinkering of the laws: “World Rugby is chemically addicted to making wildly unnecessary and unpopular changes and immediately blaming it on the fans who did not ask for them at ALL.”

There was also a feeling that the game’s governing body simply doesn’t appreciate the set-piece with several posts reading along the lines of ‘Why do World Rugby hate scrums?’

Another added: “And just like that, they have killed the game.”

Others have accused World Rugby of edging the game ever closer to becoming rugby league.

“Unhealthy obsession with “speed up game”. That form of “rugby” exists in League …. rather celebrate points of difference than morphing into a watered down rugby league product. More scrums better!” one reply to the official announcement read.

There were some positives from the law amendments, which ‘Sport-obsessed’ lawyer Tim O’Connor mentioned in his reaction.

“Banning the crocodile roll is excellent and long overdue; the offside one is meh, and makes no real difference; and preventing scrums from free kicks is actively counterproductive by removing space on the pitch and allowing defenders to fan out and fill it unfatigued,” he wrote.

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