'Crouch, bind, set' - Don't cheat
August 19, 2013
All eyes will be on the scrum this weekend © Getty Images
Though yet to be implemented in full, the new scrum protocol has been broadly welcomed by those who have at least trained using it. Hardly surprising, since it is universally agreed that the scrum has become a farce in recent seasons - refereed by guesswork, coached by cynics and executed by cheats. And, importantly, watched by increasingly exasperated fans who could often correctly predict the result of a match purely upon discovering the name of the referee. This is, according to Brian Moore, "our last chance to save the scrum".
From that position, almost any change must be for the better. But it is vital that all concerned buy into the changes. The fear is that it won't take long for teams to work out ways of bending the new laws to steal an advantage.
Top class rugby coaching is awash with ex-front row men hell-bent on cheating if it brings victory. Leicester's Richard Cockerill made his feelings towards spectators clear with his "If you want entertainment then go to the theatre" comment last season. He would do well to remember who pays him, even while he is suspended for a foul-mouthed tirade at an official.
The IRB needs to ensure that referees' interpretation of laws is kept to a minimum. While northern hemisphere referees go one way and southern hemisphere referees the other, international rugby will remain bewildered and not worth the price of a ticket.
Without tight definition, positive coaching and strict enforcement, these law changes will fail. The players must be kept in check by the officials from the start, with scrum feeds straight and no pushing until the ball is in. The ancient art of hooking will be re-born. It will take some getting used to, but since it's a change towards the way things were in the amateur days, perhaps some of the dinosaurs will understand it.
The column inches on the deterioration of the scrum are proportional to the game time wasted and the frustration felt all round. For all the talk of player welfare, the professional game is dicing with it's own welfare if the scrum is not thoroughly cleansed before the 2015 World Cup. £715 is a high price for a ticket to watch a referee decide the destiny of the Webb Ellis Cup.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd
Swansea have progressed to the last 32 of the Europa League despite losing to St Gallen, but Wigan suffered a defeat at Maribor which sees them exit the competition
Roger Federer and his agent Tony Godsick have formed an agency called Team8, which is set to represent fellow tennis stars Juan Martin del Potro and Grigor Dimitrov
Ireland prop Cian Healy will miss the start of the Six Nations after being ruled out for eight weeks because of surgery on his right ankle
Oxford cruised to a 33-15 win over Cambridge in the Varsity match at Twickenham
Four-time grand slam champion Maria Sharapova admits she does not know whether grunting helps her during matches
Tom Hamilton pays a visit to Oxford University Women's Rugby Football Club who have recently made headlines across the world, from Tokyo to New York
It's not a good time to be following English cricket, and that's reflected in the odds for the 3rd Test in Perth with the visitors 9/2 to win, a remarkable price given what happened in the summer but not too appealing given the events in the first two Te
Justin Pipe speaks to ESPN about how he almost gave up darts after losing his brother, and how a serious car accident almost ended his career
Australia conceded only two points in the rugby league World Cup final against New Zealand. Was this the heaviest victory in a final?
"Gentlemen, if you want to see the World Cup going south yet again, you are going the right way about it," John Taylor looks at the state of European rugby
Real Madrid put the seal on a fine Champions League group-stage campaign as they won 2-0 at FC Copenhagen on Tuesday - even if Cristiano Ronaldo did miss a penalty in the process
Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini inexplicably appeared to miscalculate the mathematical conundrum that would have given his side top spot in their Champions League group
Arsenal have implemented special security measures for their players and fans for the Champions League trip to Napoli due to fears over hooliganism
Former boxer Mike Tyson has been forced to cancel appearances in London for his autobiography after finding out he is banned from entering the UK
Tuesday night's winner-takes-all Champions League encounter between Galatasaray and Juventus was abandoned after only 33 minutes with the game goalless due to a severe hailstorm in Istanbul
What is still at stake and all the Champions League group stage permutations, including Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea and Manchester City
The heavy weight of expectation rests uneasily on the broad shoulders of several British boxers at the moment, writes ESPN's Steve Bunce
Phil Taylor is gunning for a 17th World Championship crown, but the likes of Michael van Gerwen and Adrian Lewis will be out to deny him success at the Alexandra Palace
The name Alf-Inge Haaland will forever be associated with the Manchester derby, and a certain Mr Roy Keane
Some of the best fighters to ever glove up have plied their trade in the Octagon - now ESPN list the 10 best who have fought under the UFC banner