Sort the scrum out, it's getting boring!
During every rugby game, in any part of the world, this happens: A man called the referee, who is as confused as the rest of us when it comes to deciphering what he is about to watch, shouts: "Crouch, touch, pause..."
And before he has the chance to say the next word, which for all props out there is actually the word "engage", there is an almighty THUMP as 16 men try to get a little closer to each other. Then the scrum collapses.
I'd like to change scrum laws. We should allow the front rows to bind down, the second rows to join in, and then the back row. Scrums, as they are now, are a mess. Most of us are bored with scrummages collapsing.
What happens now is allegedly called 'trying to win the hit', or going on the 'e' of engage, as the theory of modern scrummaging is that to dominate a scrum your pack has to win that first engagement. In practice it means going in early.
This means your props have to be in the ascendancy, in a comfortable scrummaging position, and going forward. And if they aren't? Strict instructions to collapse the scrum and start again. That's why you see so many scrum collapses; players are under instructions to end the scrum before it has begun if they haven't won the hit.
And modern packs practice the 'hit' on scrummage machines so that they are almost perfect at it.
Forwards have codes for 'soft' hits to make it look as if the opposition are charging, offset scrummaging to irritate the opposition, deliberate collapsing, and a host of other tactics designed principally to dupe the referee.
Referees, in my experience, know all the laws about binding but have little idea who it is collapsing the scrum. Well, if the players don't know and the coaches don't know, then how can a referee?
So, there I was watching ESPN Classic a while ago with some old game on view and hardly a scrum went down. The packs bound down in stages, that's why. Think more of tug of war in reverse than scrummaging. The aggression only started when the scrum was safe, rather than before it had even been set.
The violence of the big hit generated by eight highly trained men from one side colliding into the opposite eight gives lots of players an excuse to collapse the whole affair, which is what they are doing.
We have to keep a proper and competitive scrum - but it can't be allowed to ruin a game with a mess. The packs should bind down in stages, with no moving off the mark until the ball is in.
It wouldn't do away with props who would still be highly valuable, but - shock and horror - I don't think scrums would collapse as much.
Everyone together now: "Crouch, touch, pause..."