Ex-Wales prop Dai Young – a major front row force in both rugby codes – doesn’t want the current controversy over ‘boring’ scrums to force union to adopt a league style non-contest battle for the ball. The former Wasps director of rugby played in 54 Test games for Wales and the British and Irish Lions at tighthead prop, while he also won 14 caps for Wales as a rugby league player. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Crucially, he experienced the rugby league version of a scrum with Leeds and Salford which is merely a way of restarting the game with the players spending as little time as possible in formation. In rugby union, the only regulation currently in force to deal with the timing around scrums is Law 19.4 which states: “Teams must be ready to form the scrum within 30 seconds of the mark being made. Sanction; Free kick.”

However, there is at present no time limit on resets following collapsed scrums or incorrect binding, a situation which blighted the recent restart weekend of the 2019/20 Gallagher Premiership after a five-month lockdown period. The average ‘dead time’ recorded by Opta when the ball was not in play each of Premiership matches was over an hour.

Video Spacer

Video Spacer
Lions coach Warren Gatland guests on The Lockdown, the RugbyPass pandemic interview series

Young, who spent eight years at Wasps until earlier this year and is eager to return to coaching, told RugbyPass: “I don’t want to go down the rugby league route but we have to find a way of speeding the scrums up. We have all be watching the old games and the scrum has been changed and it doesn’t really seem to be better. 

“Safety always has to be paramount but we are in the entertainment business and people want to see exciting rugby. We need to keep the scrum because it does create space on the pitch and allows all shapes and sizes to play the sport. If you go to the extremes of a rugby league scrum then that is just a restart. Prop forwards are more skilled in union compared to when I was playing, but you can still spot a prop in a team environment. 

“If we went to a league style scrum, then traditional prop forwards would be lost to the game and you would have lots of back rowers, good at ball carrying but not required to push in the set-piece. It’s difficult at the moment with the cadence being asked for by referee – you have to balance your weight, hold that weight and not pre-engage, so the longer it takes doesn’t always give you a better scrum. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“We have to speed things up. That means the scrum gets formed quicker, and players also have a responsibility. We don’t want referees to guess at the scrum and some people have suggested if it’s your ball and the scrum is reset, then you could tap and go. That means if you have a weak scrum on your ball you just collapse and then tap and go.

“We have tried a slower cadence, which hasn’t quite worked. You still want to win the hit without going through the mark. Referees do need to get stricter and rather than penalising the fourth reset scrum, why not penalise the first one?

“Plenty of ex-front row forwards have spent loads of time on scrums with World Rugby but it remains a difficult one to solve because there is no easy answer. In the last year, I have watched a lot of rugby further down the levels of the game and there isn’t as much of a problem down the pyramid. It’s more of a mess at the top of the sport.”

Sale boss Steve Diamond, a former hooker, described the current scrum as boring and as useful as King Herod was to babysitting. He said: “If you look at a lot of games over the weekend, the scrum timings of the set-up are enormous. It’s minutes. It’s crazy. 

ADVERTISEMENT

“I got some footage from 1975, 1980, 1985, 1990 and measured the scrums. They were three times quicker than now. That’s ridiculous. Where (the authorities) need to spend their attention is sorting that area out – all the resets, not in the right position. (Award a) free-kick to the other team.

“There’s no other sport in the world where you have something like a scrum, so either we take it out the game, which takes all the odd-shaped people out the game, or you have got 15 seconds to get your set-up sorted and you get on it. How many clean scrums do we see? Not many.”

In another development aimed at speeding up the sport, ex-New Zealand and Wales chief executive David Moffett told RugbyPass this week that he wants to see a new version of the sport using rules he has devised because “the scrums are a nightmare. The resets are just so boring. They eat up so much time. 

“It’s the same for lineouts. The amount of time taken to throw the ball in at lineouts and get the lineout set and the amount of time it takes for a team throwing the ball in to actually get to the lineout… I mean, we’re moving away so far away from what the game should be all about.”

Mailing List

Sign up to our mailing list for a weekly digest from the wide world of rugby.

Sign Up Now