Could Free Kicks Rather Than Penalties Be The Answer To Rugby’s Scrum Problem?

Scrum-9-penalty

The issue of the scrum has become a regular point debated by rugby fans as it continues to blight the game after officials failed to enforce simple laws.

Now obviously the simplest method of improving the scrum is simply to police the put it in and ensure officials penalise scrum halves who feed the ball at an angle. The problem is that despite claims by World Rugby (IRB at the time) that this was a mandate for referee’s around the globe, the issue of crooked feeds is worse than ever.

It seems therefore that if we are unable to entrust officials to employ the simplest of directives, then perhaps the answer is to take the power out of their hands. At least in this way, even should they fail to properly police the put in, they don’t have the option to give them an advantage that they should never have had anyway.

For this reason, a move to awarding free kicks rather than penalties at scrum time means that there is less for teams to gain by not competing fairly. Now obviously this raises the issue of sides deliberately bringing down the scrum as they only risk conceding a free kick, however a penalty could be enforced for say three repeated infringements to reduce this risk.

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The problem is that many sides now see the scrum as a method of earning penalties, rather than a way of re-starting the game. This means they are actively looking for the scrum to collapse In the hope of earning a penalty even if they have the upper hand. By reducing the value of technical infringements at the scrum teams would instead be encouraged to play the ball.

A side is likely to gain much more benefit from getting the ball in and out quickly and looking for mismatches in the openfield rather than earning a free kick which gives the opposition time to line up their defence and react. Not only could this help reduce collapsing scrums but it would also encourage the ball to be played at the back of scrums, thereby speeding the game up.

This change would also do away with the stupid decisions that see props being yellow carded simply for going backwards in the scrum. At the end of the day, sides face packs that are much stronger, or better technically then themselves, and will therefore at some stage be pushed backwards. They should not be getting punished for this, especially if they keep the scrum up.

Do you think this change could help to improve the scrum?

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