Former Scotland and Lions captain Gavin Hastings believes controversial World Rugby plans to scrap scrums, line outs and mauls to allow the game to return during the COVID-19 pandemic will turn the sport into touch rugby and that sevens should be the obvious route back.
Hastings, whose son Adam is the current Scotland and Glasgow Warriors No10, has no interest in watching a hybrid version of the sport and warns that under the WR proposals a team could select 15 backline players as forwards would be largely redundant if fundamental aspects of the game are ditched just to get back onto the pitch.
According to a report in The Times, a free kick could replace scrums, mauls would be removed from the game and line-outs could go uncontested although changes would be adjusted for various parts of the rugby world depending on the impact the pandemic is having. New Zealand are set to relaunch “normal” rugby as the country has managed the impact of the crisis better than most. Hasting said: “I cannot see rugby coming back in its true form any time soon. I just think rugby without scrums, line outs and mauls you reduce the competitive aspects of the game and it no longer becomes rugby.
“If anything, play sevens and that may be the way forward because it has all the skills without fundamental change to the sport. Instead of scrums you could have free kicks and the game would be lightning-quick, you can still have line outs.
“I am not being critical of World Rugby being desperate to get the game back, but it seems impossible to see how that can be done until there is a vaccine. It could be difficult for the player (with those new rules) because a lot of what they do on the pitch is instinctive. Whatever form this new rugby takes it just won’t be the same watching a hybrid game on the television which could be as confusing for the people watching at home as for the players on the pitch. Why not wait and see how New Zealand goes when they start playing again.”
The only WR proposal that gains support from Hastings is addressing the current situation with scrums which he believes takes too much time out of the sport.” Scrums do my head in,” he added. “Before my time the ball was in and away 30 seconds after the referee blew for the knock-on. Modern scrums are the most infuriating, time-wasting exercise for me and I would go for not having them because the ball would be in play for much longer.”
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