by Andrew White | February 14, 2014 | Comments Off on Scotland 0 England 20 – Six Nations Rugby
Did anyone see the game on TV? Seriously, rugby (union, as opposed to its cousin, league) is my favorite team sport. I cannot say enough about the game. Just to listen to the referee talk to the teams during the top level games is a marvel. And to watch the players bludgeon themselves, as safely as they can, as roughly as they can, as gentlemen, is just downright fun.
At the same time the governing board for Rugby Union actually behaves rationally, for the most part, and seeks to improve the game. Unlike, say, FIFA that is a politicized, selfish, corrupt, closed shop. If you watched any of the Six Nations games this last weekend you would have noticed a change in how scrums are set. Scrums can be a most exciting element of a game. When one team is heavier than the other, or if its scrum tactics outplay the other, the game can change in those few square feet that comprise the scrum.
In years past the referee would call out, “crouch, touch, pause, engage”. These four words defined the set up for the scrum. It is a complex maneuver between 18 large, aggressive, strong men. “Crouch” told the two teams to form their half of the scrum. “Touch” signaled that they should be close enough that the front row of the two “packs” can reach out and touch each other’s shoulders. This is in anticipation of a “pause”. This is to prevent either pack from launching too quickly at the other. If either pack pushes forward before the other, and the referee is ready, the scrum won’t form properly and it would have to reform. This takes and wastes time. So once a “pause” has been signaled by the referee, he then signals an “engage” and at this point, all hell breaks loose. Both sides of the scrum launch at each other and start pushing, though they are meant to push equally. Once the scrum-half then throws the ball into play under and bent over scrum, both teams are at liberty to push as hard as they want.
Too often this did not work as planned and too many scrums broke down too early. Recently the rules were changed to help improve the situation. In the games this last weekend you would have heard the referee call, “crouch, bind, set”. The “crouch” is pretty much the same as it was before and tells the two teams to form up and get ready to scrum. “Bind” was never formally governed so this is new and a critical element where the front row players reach out, touch, and hold on correctly to their opposite number. At this stage, neither team should be pushing the other. The binding has to be secure before the next step, being “set” that equates to the original “engage”. Set here means the two teams push at the same time and ideally the scrum is stable now ready to receive the ball and carry on as before.
It was an intriguing change to the rules, and even more fun was to be had watching the English scrum force the Scottish team back. It is a test of wills, strength and technique. In this year’s 119th (that’s a hundred and nineteen years of lovely Rugby) Calcutta Cup, England made the difference. It was not a dominating performance, despite the score line. It was gutsy, and effective, but not brilliant. Let’s hope the skill comes out in the next game.
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