The change in the “Yes, 9” rule announced at the beginning of the week comes into ‘immediate enforcement’ – worldwide.


I guess this is only possible because of technology and the internet – let’s hope that all refs, scrum halves and front rows in every corner of the planet log on to rugby sites (instead of the usual porn surfing) sometime before the weekend. There, they can read (which may well exclude many props and quite a few refs) about the new law.

I’m anticipating a fair bit of confusion on Saturday with some scrum halves waiting for ‘yes 9’ whilst the ref is trying to tell him to put the ball in via a hand gesture or some other non -verbal communication. If this involves a wink and a tap on the backside it could well lead to some rather nasty and unsavoury incidents on the field.

To be fair I very much doubt if any front row will be troubled by the change – they rarely appear to know or take notice of many of the basic laws (of any sort not just rugby) and since this one doesn’t involve violence of any description it will probably just pass them by.

During my playing days (and, as you know, I use the term loosely) I can remember a few changes to the rules although I have little recollection as to how we found out about them. Without mobiles, computers, tablets (soap or otherwise) and 24/7 news coverage the best (and almost only sensible) coverage was in the Telegraph (newspaper not Morse – I’m not that fucking old).

So when a try went from 3 points (I admit I am that old) to 4 and then subsequently to 5 I have no idea who told us or how we found out (except maybe by losing a game we thought we’d won!)

There was also the outlawing of kicking straight to touch from outside the 25 (which might already have become the 22 by then). This would almost certainly have led to a catalogue of serious arguments when the touch judge (or whatever he’s called now) indicated a lineout some way short of where the full back expected it. This would have continued for some time (the confusion not that individual episode obviously) until some posh bloke at the club discarded his Daily Telegraph in the gents after an extended poo (the time not the size – obviously).

Whilst this delay in distributing awareness of changes might in some cases have taken weeks it would have made absolutely no difference – before or after – to the members who wore numbers 1 to 3 on their backs (or were supposed to anyway)

One good change I recall was to the ‘mark’ – you used to have to catch it, shout mark and straighten your leg in a forward position to make a dent in the mud. This level of co-ordination often eluded the bloke under the ball (especially if it was me) but dropping the ball did little to protect you from the ensuing assault by the opposition who had made some considerable effort to reach you somewhere around the time the ball dropped anywhere in your general vicinity. This made you somewhat vulnerable to a severe pasting.

The problem was that a straightened leg allowed their marauding back row to lunge at your knee with the specific intention of bending it backwards like a Barbie doll (as in seeing if you happened to be double jointed not wearing a Stade Francais shirt)

Trust me – most rugby players legs don’t go that way – not without serious blunt force trauma anyway.

A lot of the refs we had, especially when I played weren’t aware of some of the basic and original laws of the game much less any new innovations – there were one or two who could actually be convinced that a try or a penalty was actually worth a lot more than they thought – depending on which score we’d managed obviously.

Back to the present – it will be entertaining to watch just what types of non –verbal communication the refs resort to when the Heineken Cup kicks off on Friday evening.

It will almost certainly be even more fun if you manage to get to a Vets game on Sunday afternoon.