Former Scotland lock Jim Hamilton has lambasted French referee Romain Poite for his ineffective handling of the scrums in last Saturday’s Autumn Nations Cup match between England and Wales in Llanelli. The English won a dour struggle 24-13 that wasn’t helped by the frustrating set-piece ruling by the official from France.

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England boss Eddie Jones refused to comment, claiming he doesn’t assess referees in public after a match, but Wales coach Wayne Pivac wasn’t shy in giving Poite a piece of his mind, saying: “There were a number of penalties awarded at the scrum and, in some cases, wrongly. If a prop loses his footing and a scrum goes down, it is his fault. They got six points through that.”

Now, The Rugby Pod have got in on the act, criticising referee Poite for ruining what should have been a good Wales vs England spectacle and adding that more teams must adopt the Exeter tactic of the quick tap from free-kicks rather than being allowed to opt for a scrum, setting in train all over again the time-draining set-piece.

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Johnny Williams has a message for unhappy Wales fans

“I thought he [Poite] was shocking,” said Hamilton, a veteran of 63 caps for the Scots between 2006 and 2015. “Genuinely. You look at the standard of players on show.

“We can talk about the physicality and maybe some law changes which we think might help, but ultimately you have got a referee that isn’t refereeing the game to the standard it needs to be reffed at.

“It’s going to be a difficult one to talk about. We can talk about the high tackle from Elliot Daly, we can talk about taking (Dan) Biggar out in the air as well. The big one for me is around the scrum because the reset saps the energy out of the spectator.

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“Watching the game unfold, Romain Poite is making the wrong calls at the scrum. I’m not a scrum expert but I understand the scrums. I understand when there needs to be a reset. You can see when a prop slipped. You can see when players are trying to cheat, which they don’t do anymore because the players want it in and out mainly.

“You will get a dominant scrum who will want to keep it in, but it’s very rare now that scrums get pulled down or there is a manipulation around it. The players want the game to move forward. I’m watching him referee the scrum, it was nothing worse than shocking.

“That is one thing we can talk about, what happens with all these scrum resets…. what I have really enjoyed is Exeter starting the trend of tap and go. Just go. That is one thing they need to take out, if there is a free-kick, forget the scrum, tap and go big fella, or if it’s defensively, give them a long arm, give them a penalty.”

Ex-England out-half Andy Goode, Hamilton’s show co-host, used to salivate over the scrum being the ideal attacking platform for a backline but feels that opportunity to exploit the space which exists at the set-piece is now lost.

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“It’s the only time you have got eight players tied up from each team and you have got more space than when you are attacking against a solid defensive line that are just flying off the line. I used to love scrums and trying to formulate an attack to manipulate a defence,” he said.

“Effectively a lot the time you can have all seven backs in a backs move from a left-hand side scrum coming up against four, four-and-a-half defenders. That is what a back should get excited but we are not being able to see that because scrums just aren’t being completed.

“It’s then going to a free-kick and resets and you’re right, referees like Romain Poite do not have a clue and I’m saying that as an Englishman, we got 95 per cent of the decisions going our way at the weekend. Imagine being Welsh and watching Romain Poite referee that game. I’m not taking anything away from England. We thoroughly deserved to win and it wouldn’t have changed anything, but he was brutal.”

 

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