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Dave Rennie: Uncontested scrums are 'not rugby'

By AAP
Petrus du Plessis oversees the Wallabies scrum /PA

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Wallabies coach Dave Rennie is not a fan of uncontested scrums in professional rugby – and he’s not the only one.

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With the coronavirus already causing havoc before a ball has even been kicked in competition proper, that very prospect of uncontested scrums during the inaugural Super Rugby Pacific has been floated.

By Rugby Australia boss Andy Marinos no less.

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The massive ‘void’ in South African rugby.
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The massive ‘void’ in South African rugby.

But Marinos’ potential protection plan for less-experienced front-rowers in the event of COVID-19 wiping out rostered props during Super Rugby Pacific hasn’t gone down too well.

“I haven’t been involved in any of those discussions but you’d have a lot of excited props if they felt they didn’t have to push at scrum time and get around the field and make a difference,” Rennie said on Tuesday.

“So hopefully it doesn’t get to that stage.”

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To the contrary, but agreeing with Rennie, NSW Waratahs prop Harry Johnson-Holmes said he wouldn’t be excited at all.

“It would put me out of a job, so hopefully they stay contested,” said Johnson-Holmes, comparing no pushing at scrums to removing specialist goalkickers from rugby.

“There’s a lot of closed skills in rugby and, if we start looking to modify and alter the game to cater to perhaps issues in depth, then there’s probably a lot of the game that would need to be changed.

“I know front row is more of a safety thing. I understand that. But it’s a characteristic of the clubs that they probably need to assess and know that they have depth beyond a few emergencies.”

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There can be no doubting NSW’s front-row depth, according to forwards coach Pauli Taumoepeau, who says the Waratahs on “every other day” have as many as nine props at training, including developmental players.

Little wonder Taumoepeau also strongly opposes uncontested scrums being enforced in the event of a major COVID-19 outbreak.

“If I was to talk on behalf of every coach, I would say we would always welcome the contest,” Taumoepeau said.

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“Rugby is a contest game; you contest at lineout, you contest [the] maul, you contest [the] tackle.

“If you take that scrum battle out of the way, as much as it’s very much for the purist, I just don’t think its rugby anymore. So, when given the opportunity, we would always pick contest.”

“And so we are doing a lot of work with [former Wallabies prop and Waratahs general manager] Andrew Blades.

“We have a lot of young props in and around training. At training the other week we had nine props – most of them were 19, 20. There is no such thing as ‘we have enough props’.”

Uncontested scrums certainly wouldn’t be without precedent in pro rugby as they’ve already been used at World Cups.

World Rugby’s law states: “Scrums will become uncontested if either team cannot field a suitably trained front row or if the referee so orders.”

– Darren Walton

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