'Days of the crooked feed are well and truly over'
August 11, 2013
Referee Wayne Barnes keeps a close eye on a scrum during last season's Premiership finale © Getty Images
Rugby Football Union referees boss Ed Morrison has made a bold prediction on the eve of the new Premiership season by declaring that the 'the days of the crooked scrum feed are well and truly over'.
The scrum as a whole has been the subject of intense debate in recent months with the latest change in the engagement process - to 'crouch, bind, set' - set to be rolled out across the rugby globe this month with the aim of improving player welfare while at the same time returning the set-piece to a key role in the game and improving it as a spectacle.
Alongside that headline-grabbing change, officials have also been asked to closely monitor and manage all aspects of the scrum including the alarming amount of crooked feeds by scrum-halves that appear to have become the norm in the elite game. But they are now a thing of the past according to Morrison.
"We'll be judged on how the ball is thrown in and there'll be some loud noises if the example isn't set at the top end of the game," Morrison told The Rugby Paper. "The ball shouldn't go in until the scrum is square and stationary and if that's the case we'll have a different contest altogether.
"Referee have been managing the scrum quite forcefully in practise sessions and we've told clubs that the days of putting the ball into the second row are well and truly over. We'll be policing the scrum-feed carefully."
Morrison does not expect a smooth transition but is hopeful that the changes result in a better game. "We've had referees in clubs every day, both in the Premiership and the Championship, and it'll be interesting pre-season period now. It's going to be challenging but the new laws are here and we've got to make them work.
"Will the process cause us problems? It's bound to. But if it works, we could see the game opening up completely. There's not a better position to attack from that set-piece ball, particularly the scrum, and good teams will still have the opportunity to dominate their opponents if they're technically strong enough.
"What the process also does is take away the incredible force of the hit and one senior prop said to me: "Thank you very much, you've now given me another three years in the game!"
Morrison also confirmed that Television Match Officials will be in operation at all Premiership games this season - instead of just those broadcast on TV as last year - but he is wary of the TMOs playing an increasing role in the game.
"That's something we've got to constantly review and guard against," he said. "But referees are decision-makers and the best referees, contrary to what some people might say, don't make that many mistakes. I'd like to think the TMOs will not get any more involved, but I'm please they'll be at non-televised games now because it gives the competition more credibility."
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