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in response to David De Beers post here:

http://david-debeer.com/2009/03/two-minute-rule-for-rugby/

also posted there as a comment.


I preface this by saying I do not having access to satellite TV and therefore have not seen any Super 14, I am basing this on the Guinness Premiership and Six Nations coverage.

 ELVs: I may be a northern hemisphere fan but I am not a knee-jerk reactionary against the ELVs, some have been good, some have not worked, and some have had unintended consequences. Progress is good but needs to be carefully balanced against changing the character of the game fundamentally.

 But more importantly the changes to the game this season have come about not as much from the ELVs but because of the IRBs directives on policing the breakdown - like a lot of these rules they were designed to take minimise the impact of the referee on the game and make it flow but they have had the opposite effect.

 Nothing is going to remove the pointless up-and-undering from fullbacks and wingers, but the new rules do keep the ball in play longer. Mostly?

 The kicking duels are, not actually pointless, they are down to the fact that attacking is considered too dangerous. Breakdowns policed on the whim of the referee mean that the risk averse option is to kick rather than run with the ball - e.g being caught in possession and only allowing a microsecond for a ruck to form before blowing for the attacker holding on - for this reason something needs to be changed as there is a disincentive to play the game / go forward with the ball in hand.

 Ball in play statistics are almost meaningless especially if you are counting every kick as ball in play. I am just glad we have not trialled the short-arm penalties here in the Guinness Premiership - if even the Australians [yes the Australians  ;) ] are conceding it is effectively a cheat's charter - a free kick being a scant 'penalty' for an infringement in defence.

 

Scrum - a well-meaning emphasis on safety led to introduction of crouch - touch - pause - engage but what conversely this has done is to amplify the importance of the hit. In my opinion this means that the scrum is more likely to go down if the advantage in the hit has not gone your way.

 Admittedly, the scrum is difficult to referee and few referees have played in the front row and do not understand what is going on and which side is trying to do what to gain an advantage. But resets and essentially random penalties meaning that there isn't any scrummaging actually happening.

 They negate the rolling maul which is simply the most horrid — and dull — thing to ever happen to rugby. I don’t care about how effective it is, it’s bloody dull to watch.

1. about 15 seconds in; the problem with this under the old rules is that opponents are not allowed to collapse the maul, they can only push back and it’s simple fact that all the momentum is with the side that has the ball. Near impossible to defend effectively

 Maul - I differ here and this is of course a matter of personal taste - i liked the old maul, power, technique and skill were required to get it to actually work. Properly deployed a rampaging maul with proper forward momentum is a good spectacle to watch.

 I believe that application of the pre-existing laws to the maul would have sufficed 1) use it or lose it - you have a time limit - lack of forward momentum means the ball must be spun wide or you lose possession and 2) truck and trailer to ensure it is properly formed, i.e. you can't hang the ball of the off the back.

 The video example you posted of the Scotland maul actually illustrates my point. You stated that it is almost impossible to defend - but why did the Scottish maul work? IMHO because the French refused to commit defenders and had poor technique / wrong body positions and were trying to stop it as individuals and not as unit.

 If you force the defenders to commit men to defend a maul, this means two things, firstly that there is more space out wide as there are fewer defenders (fewer backrowers clogging up the midfield) and likely more tries, and secondly mauling tires out the forwards so that there are spaces later in the game (this is the same for the scrum - too many resets at the moment means not enough energy exerted in proper scrummaging) Having props still running around on the 79 minute mark is unnatural even given professional levels of fitness ;)

 Also you could collapse a maul under the previous rules if you were the original tackler and had not yet been joined by your teammates - Chabal got mistakenly penalised for doing this a couple of years ago.

  Obviously you can still use the maul under the ELVs but have to deploy it carefully - but the defenders do not have to commit too many to defend it, therefore there is less space.

 Your proposed 2 minute rule - in the northern hemisphere the "running the clock down" tactic is usually based on the maintenance of possession at ruck after ruck and then boot the ball into touch when you've got to 80:00. But this often happens just after you've scored to go ahead or to extend a slim lead - so you have to ensure that you reclaim the restart kick.

 This was the basis of the Henson vs Jones argument in the Wales v Italy game a couple of weeks ago - Henson wanted the ball put into touch to end the game but Ryan Jones opted for the penalty kick at the posts meaning that there would be a restart and Italy would have a chance to reclaim the ball from the restart and potentially keep the ball alive long enough to score.

 I think a lot of your objections about timewasting / re-set scrums could be handled by application of existing laws.

 You note that scrum is not a fair fight for possession when compared with the lineout, therefore your preference for lineouts in the last 2 minutes.

 But I would say the scrum is primarily not a fair contest for possession because EVERY scrum is fed: the ball is not put in straight, unlike the computerised 'ideal' video you linked to.

 If you went to a zero-tolerance approach on crooked feeds it would make the potential of strikes against the head much higher. And would probably be an incentive for defenders to actually scrummage rather than just disrupt. Good point about wanting to deal with timewasting, though this does happen in lineouts too. Perhaps in this scrum situation you could start the game clock when the ball is actually put in? Although this is probably too hard to implement.



(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-26 02:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cherylmmorgan.livejournal.com
I think I mostly agree with you here, Will. We don't need more artificial rules, we need the existing ones to be applied properly. Scrums are a particular problem - not just the crooked feeds, but the number of times were hear the commentators say that the referee has got no idea and is penalizing sides at random. I am bemused by the number of times scrum penalties go against the attacking side for doing things that appear to be against their interests.

On the other hand, I'm not totally against the short arm penalties. Yes, they are a cheat's charter, but players cheat anyway, and often they get away with it. The existing rules are all-or-nothing, particularly within kicking range, and with the referees getting calls wrong on many occasions it is no wonder teams are reluctant to ruck. I'd much rather see a quick whistle and a quick tap, and everyone getting on with the game, than the ref either being reluctant to whistle or waiting for 5 minutes while the ref lectures the players and someone takes a place kick.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-26 08:13 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] david-de-beer.livejournal.com
you know I actually feel sorry for the refs (and I say this as someone who enjoys yelling at them as much as the next bloke). They've got a raw deal and it's easy for commentators to declare the ref got it wrong since it's not them standing on the field having to make the call. The crooked feeds are a good point, but I think by now we can all make our peace wiht the fact that it's here to stay. I will absolutely grant Will's point that if feeds at the scrum were better policed scrums would work better and it would improve the percentage of times we get heels against the head. But, the reality is it probably won't be, hence accepting the system as is I do feel there's room for a rule to counter at least some of the manipulation that players are currently prone to.
Look, players will always cheat so long as they can get away with it. That's true. But if it is possible to remove some of the situations that allow them to cheat within the rules then why not?

What I like about the short arm penalties is precisely that it's taken away a lot of the incentive for front rowers to milk clueless refs for every penalty their worth. A rugby plan centred around strong defense, a big pack of forwards and halfbacks skilled at positional kicking so as to get the team within penalty range is effective (the Super14 Bulls; Wales under Neil Jenkins; England not too long ago). It's also dull as hell.

One thing I've seen in the Super14 and our local competition in the last couple of years is a renewed emphasis on counter-rucking at the breakdown points. It's long overdue. I don't know if the new rules had a major role to play in this, or if it's simply a new emphasis by the coaches, but it is definitely picking up, defenders getting more aggressive at the breakdown and creating turnover situations.

Quick whistle, quick tap -- when elv's first came in last year there were some grumbles that they would make scrummaging obsolete. My feeling was, and is, it will actually make scrums more vital than ever.
Will's pointed out that no forwards can run for 79 minutes. That's true, and while the quick tap and run can be effective, usually it also means a team has to run against a defense spread from sideline to sideline. Fatigue and spread defense = renewed emphasis on using a set play. At least, to my thinking. And so far what we've seen here is teams competing rather well in the scrums during the course of the game. They collapse, yes, but not with the guaranteed regularity they do within the last couple of minutes when the team in front is simply trying to prevent the other team from getting the ball. Or, for that matter, with the guaranteed regularity when collapsing scrums could lead to long arm penalties within kicking distance. It's now to the benefit of both sides to get the ball in and get it out, as well as having a powerhouse scrum of forwards that can allow you to put the attackers on the backfoot.
ELV's will help scrum contests and minimalize stop-start-stop-start. Nothing is going to help refs figure out who's doing what to whom, though.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-03-26 08:39 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] david-de-beer.livejournal.com
Perhaps in this scrum situation you could start the game clock when the ball is actually put in?

I did consider it but, as you say, it probably wouldn't be viable to implement.

I haven't seen enough Northern Hemisphere rugby the last while to be able to contrast the rolling mauls as you have it and as we have it, but what I do know is I wasn't as negative about them a few years ago. The maul in the last couple seasons have evolved to the point where an attacking side only has to get set and they are near impossible to stop. Our refs have gone nuts in penalizing any attempt by defenders to stop the maul, including penalizing locks who manage to force their way through the middle (which is/ was legal, so far as I have it). The use it/ lose it rule was always a good one but it simply doesn't get applied with any true consistency and lately the refs got as lenient to teams taking their time to set up as they are to crooked scrum feeds.

If you force the defenders to commit men to defend a maul, this means two things, firstly that there is more space out wide as there are fewer defenders

I agree. but they way it's being managed at present means that the ball doesn't go wide, it stays with the forwards up front or gets kicked over the top by the halfback. usually it stays up front and we see one bashing run after the other. Which...is not as thrilling as it sounds.
ultimately I believ the maul still has a place, although now as a surprise move where you can catch opponents off-guard and manage to break through the few defenders they commit (if, you can shake them off before they collapse the maul which will become an art to itself), forcing yardage upfield and the defense to scramble so they don't get caught off-side when you do bring the ball out. Right there is opportunity to use the maul to set up chances out wide, as forwards rush in to collapse the maul and backs have to turn to get onside again.
That I can live with. But the maul as it's become in the Southern Hemisphere is killing my interest in watching rugby at all.
(the Scotland maul I linked to was impressive; I toyed with linking it as an example of what a maul is or searching for an example to better illustrate what I meant. I chose the Scotland one because I do kind of like the clip.)

The rugby rules are nuts at present and I'll be frank that rugby has become a much less interesting sport for me to watch the last decade or so. If it was simply about winning then all I need to do is read the paper the next day. But I do like to watch for the pleasure of it. The way they game was increasingly being played is tedious, at least to me.

The breakdown is funnily enough an area where I can live with refs being more lenient. Things happen fast down there and so long as both sides can compete with a chance at turnovers, then let the game go. Blatant infringements (tackler lying over the ball) is one thing, but they are too strict right now, pretty much disallowing opposing flankers to strip and win the ball. Who cares if they have a knee on the ground or not? so long as the ball's coming out one side or the other, let it go I say.
As I commented to Cheryl above, one thing I have noticed in the last two seasons in the Super 14 (and this might be accident rather than the result of the elv's) is a lot more counter-rucking at the breakdown and flankers quicker to turn the ball over.
Of course it might be just my perception and actual facts will prove me wrong, but I like my little delusions:)
thanks for picking up the discussion, you raised some very good points. I'm afraid my brain is bloody fried right now. Can't think beyond what I've already said.

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