What Rugby Union Desperately Needs – A Scrum Clock!


Let’s face it, the only people who like the endless minutes of reset scrums are those of us who take to long to get another beer from the fridge, or like to make themselves a cup of tea, whilst watching the match.

No one can remember the last time a scrum went through first time, referees are resetting them so often that they now dispense invaluable coaching tips to the front rows, commentators and pundits are getting increasingly frustrated because even they run out of things to say, and it is just plain boring.

The solution is out there, however!

But the kick-and-clap boys won’t like it, as it is a ‘Leaguey’ invention.

– In the NRL, this season, they are trialing a ‘scrum clock’, and I think Union should have it as well.

In play, a knock-on occurs, no advantage is forthcoming to the non-offending team, so the referee blows his whistle and indicates for a scrum. He then calls for the scrum (or shot) clock to be ‘on’ and the teams have 35 seconds to form the scrum. Hence speeding up the game.

Let us ignore the age-old wisdom of the importance of the ‘dark and manly arts’ of forward play and agree a scrum, in the Laws, is a way to get play restarted. So let’s get play restarted, start the scrum clock, and the players should ‘engage’ within 35 seconds.

Then all we have to do is deal with the endless resets!

Simple, again. If the scrum goes down, then the referee makes a decision – penalty to one side or the other.

In the final round of last year’s 6 Nations, Rugby Union fans were reminded that their game can run, tackle, and score tries. No one was hanging around as they needed as many points as possible.

Maybe the scrum clock can help them re-find that kind of game that was so thrilling to watch.

Two Referees?


Let’s face facts – the referee is the unsung hero of the game of rugby and the real reason why we love to watch the ‘footy’ on the tv.

If our team wins then the referee ‘had a good game’ and if our team loses then the referee ‘had a shocker’.

At a match the referee is too small on the pitch for any real feeling of love or loathing to manifest itself but when the game is on the tv then it is pure pantomime.

Not only do we get lots of glorious close-ups of the guy we love/hate, but we have the wonders of modern technology with thirty different slow-motion replays from all the angles, along with infra-red and x-ray. Face it NASA hasn’t put Mars under as much scrutiny or more expensive technology than the referee in a game of rugby on tv.

But what about if there were two referees on the pitch at the same time?

Imagine the boos, hisses, and look – he really is behind you as well!

The NRL have been running their matches with two referees for a couple of years now, and it seems to work. The main referee does the usual job of getting the calls right or wrong, only giving a penalty when it should have been a sending off, and all the rest. . .and the second referee polices the play of the ball area and keeps a weather-eye on foul play, as well as supporting the main ref in the key decisions.

You still have your touch judges, in-goal judges, and the TMO, but the second referee seems to clear up most of the controversy that can easily happen in a game.

I know, given how I started this piece, then two referees seems to take the real fun of rugby – leaning on the ref – out of it.

However, the rugby seems to take over and you almost don’t notice that your real job watching the match is to shout helpful comments at the referee via the tv screen and you sit back and watch the footy and root for your team.

I’d certainly like to see have two on pitch officials trailed in the Super League. Especially, as it tidies up the rucks and makes the play quicker. Then you add in play-the-ball correctly and a time limit on goal-line drop puts and scrums, and you have a quicker game with more gaps, players tiring more quickly, and finding more gaps etc.

More rugby and less pantomime has got to be good for the game – hasn’t it?

6N – England v. Wales


Take nothing away from it, England started fast and wide – probably their greatest strength at the moment with Joseph and Watson. Wales were a little shell-shocked and seemed to expect the usual tactic of kick everything away from fly-half.

Reverting back to their often used poor tactic of not contesting in the line-outs, Dylan Hartley hardly had to throw a ball in straight and he didn’t. This made the first-half kicks at goal all the more interesting. Why didn’t England put the ball in the corner and go for the tries? They will need to find the confidence to do that if they want to beat the southern hemisphere teams.

There were a number of interesting calls from Joubert in the area of the rucks, which became frustrating, as Wales were penalised for not rolling away but seemingly England were not as rigidly monitored. Even English fans mused on the Roberts being penalised for not releasing the ball, in the second half, but when the players all rolled away Farrell still had his arms clamped around Roberts and was clearly not attempting to roll away. The same English fans thought it harsh but that’s part of the game isn’t it and breathed a sigh of relief when the final whistle blew.

Perhaps the changes England made in the second half allowed Wales back in, or maybe Wales just decided to go back to the original game plan, or maybe a few more calls went their way in the last twenty minutes, the the three tries clearly indicated what Wales could have done.

But then this is the same old story with Wales – so close but not quite – and this is an accusation often mentioned of the Gatland era. Gland Slams and 6N titles are wonderful, but how many matches did Wales almost win? Or has Gatland made mountains out of molehills to get that close to begin with.

George North showed his class throughout the game and, unsurprisingly, Tuilagi was a non-entity on his England return. In fact you could easily pinpoint his vagueness of defensive positioning as a reason Wales began to get so much go forward.

As determined as the press seem to be to insist Eddie Jones sees Tuilagi as the missing x-factor for England, placing him at 12 gives you an impact runner with little passing skill and no kicking option to speak of; or taking Farrell off, or pushing him into 10 and taking Ford off. Taking Farrell off leaves you without a kicking option in midfield, which seems to be a key ingredient in Jones’ England compared to Lancaster’s England.

So what next for Wales?

To be fair, Wales are still in good shape; but the one thing I would change if the defence against the line-out, as whenever they don’t contest the ball they bleed points. As you can’t drive until the jumper is down on the ground, I really don’t see what gains you have by waiting for the opposition to set up cleanly. Get up and put off the throw from the hooker and cause the opposition jumper to have to scrabble about a bit – interrupt their flow.

Overall, if you take the first twenty minutes and the second twenty minutes, then I think that was a great game and England deserved to win it.

Wigan v. Leeds.


Fixing up the attack!

Great defence throughout, by both sides.

Too many mistakes by Wigan in the first half, in terms of handling, but determined defence played its part.

The breaks out of their own 20m zone were fantastic, with Charnley looking very dangerous with a couple of metres space. Very much the look of Jason Robinson about him.

Wigan are a bit too structured when shifting the ball sidewards – they pass deep back and Leeds were smart not to rush them and wait to shift the line and cut down the options.

If defences do that then Wigan need to press the line from 1st receiver to activate the defence then block pass along the line.

It was too easy to defend, plus there isn’t enough push support, so when the forwards are making the half-breaks there is no one to pass too because they are so far back setting up for the ‘move’.

I would have thought they would have learnt that lesson from the Aussies in the World Club Challenge!

Roles and Responsibilities.


A great coach and mentor once said to me that rugby was all about ‘roles and responsibilities’.

If players understand what their role is and what their responsibility on the pitch it is to do, then generally you have a winning team.

The same could easily be applied to life in general.

To be successful as a mother or father, a work colleague or boss, a friend, a husband or wife, it is all about understanding your roles and responsibilities.

When an area of our lives isn’t quite going according to plan, generally, it comes down to losing sight of our roles and not carrying out our responsibilities.

Keeping a clear head isn’t always easy to do – in the last couple of minutes of a close scoring rugby match, in the strain of a busy day, in the midst of an argument – but if we can be much more mindful of our roles and responsibilities then we might make better decisions more often.

If you are not clear on your roles and responsibilities take the time to gain that clarity.

Sometimes that isn’t an easy thing to do.

After the their exit from the 2007 World Cup, the All Blacks began this process.

It was a painful process.

Today they are the most successful team, in terms of percentage of matches won and lost, in International Rugby.

Most people/teams begin their reviews after it all goes wrong.

Get ahead of the curve and review your roles and responsibilities now.

England’s Blame Game.


The quarter-finals are all set for the Rugby World Cup 2015.

Some teams are through and some are not.

Those who are not seem to have borne it with good grace.

Except for one team that is.

England.

The rugby news is still inundated with pundits, players and coaches (old and current), all insisting this has to be the end of the road for Head Coach Stuart Lancaster.

Why?

Because England are the first host nation who have gone out at the pool stage.

But then again no other world cup competition had four top ten seeds in the same pool.

Because England lost to Wales.

Historically, England have won just one more match than Wales in these encounters and recently the venue doesn’t seem to matter too much.

Because England lost to Australia.

Australia have won the World Cup twice to England’s once. Since 1909 they have played each other 44 times, with Australia leading 25 wins to 18 for England.

Maybe they shouldn’t be too surprised.

Of course this is all Stuart Lancaster’s fault. He’s the Head Coach so the book stops with him.

If the defeat by Wales was so humiliating, as it seems to be by the amount of column inches being given to it in the call for Lancaster’s head, who gave away all those penalties which Dan Biggar slotted between the uprights?

If the nation needs a head to justify England’s exit from the World Cup then just make sure it is the right one.

The Real Tragedy of England Exiting the World Cup.


The real tragedy of England exiting the World Cup isn’t what you are going to read about and see in the media.

It won’t be because of the five penalties in the scrum.

It won’t be because of the yellow card given to Owen Farrell.

It won’t even be because of the choice to go for the corner and not the kick for a draw against Wales.

(The real error there was going for the 2-ball).

The real tragedy will be the fact that everyone will continue to miss the key to repeated poor performances by northern hemisphere sides in recent months/years.

The breakdown.

Guess what? Australia used to be poor in the scrum. So they fixed it. Now they can compete and win in this area.

England think their glory is in the set pieces and the contact area.

Australia caught up in the set pieces and overtook you in the contact area.

The fans/pundits/players think scrapping around on the floor proves their supremacy and nationhood.

Ten minutes watching Super 15s/Rugby Championship tells you that the breakdown is exactly that – a breakdown – the guy with the ball got tackled. So get the ball to a new guy and evade the defenders in the attempt of scoring a try.

Getting the ball away from the breakdown/ruck as quickly and cleanly as possible allows you to challenge the defensive line and find the cracks in your opponent’s armour. Scrapping around on the floor allows too much opportunity for turn-over/penalty/defence to recover and realign.

When the player with the ball uses his footwork to get between two defenders, don’t stand and watch him go to ground whilst the tacklers remain on their feet and contest for the ball, and then try and clear them out.

Get close to the guy with the ball and follow him through and take the tacklers out of the game by driving well beyond them and securing the ball to allow quick and clean ball away – as soon as possible before the defence can react.

Australia showed you the importance of this in the match tonight.

So follow their example. Get better at the breakdown.

England didn’t lose their quest for the World Cup because of the reasons you are going to read about.

They lost it due to not seeing the breakdown for what it really is.