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Thread: The scourge of the scrum: Wales' top referee Nigel Owens

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    The scourge of the scrum: Wales' top referee Nigel Owens

    The scourge of the scrum: Wales' top referee Nigel Owens says players' attitudes must change, not the laws
    Jan 15, 2015 11:43
    OPINION BY NIGEL OWENS
    One of the best rugby officials in the world insists when the set-piece is approached properly there is rarely a problem, so rule changes are not the answer



    The scrum is once again being labelled a scourge of the game. I wouldnít say that applies right across the board, but thereís no doubt in some matches it has become a lottery.


    I keep hearing calls for the law makers to sit down and address it once and for all but, with respect, that isnít the answer.


    The laws donít need changing because the laws arenít the issue.


    Working that out is not rocket science. I need only tell you that I have refereed some games this season where the scrum has been an absolute nightmare, whereas in others there has barely been a single problem.


    Iíll give you a couple of examples of the latter; on Boxing Day I took charge of Munster against Leinster at Thomond Park. There were 14 scrums in the game, one collapsed, and one resulted in me awarding a penalty. The rest were fair pushing contests from which play was able to resume smoothly.


    Last Saturday I ran the line for Cardiff Bluesí clash with Leinster on the 4G surface at the Arms Park. I donít remember the scrum being an issue whatsoever, and that was nothing to do with the plastic pitch.


    The idea therefore that the answer is some big conference on the scrum that decrees a raft of rule changes is clearly nonsense.


    Letís get to the crux of the matter; the negative attitude of players Ė and to an extent coaches Ė is largely to blame for scrums spoiling the spectacle.


    When you have two sides who approach the scrum positively then, unless conditions underfoot are appallingly bad, there is very rarely a problem. In my experience though, it is almost always impossible to blame the conditions.



    Players are the only ones at fault when a scrum goes down, nobody else.


    Much of the problem with collapsing comes from props packing down with their feet too far back, something they get used to doing when they go up against scrummaging machines in training.


    But a game situation is different and once you start moving forward in a scrum, unless you bring your legs with you then only one thing is going to happen.


    I do not absolve referees of blame in this. I am not simply pointing the finger.


    Referees, myself included, have to get better at pinpointing who is to blame for collapsing the set-piece, as hard as it is at times.


    Yet donít be fooled by the accusation that you hear quite often, that referees just guess who is infringing and award penalties to each side in turn. Itís a red herring.


    I dare say the odd decision has been given when the official isnít sure, but the best referees ARE wise to what is happening at a scrum and will penalise accordingly.


    Personally, I never give a decision at a scrum if I am unsure because as soon as you start doing that you are just in danger of losing the respect of the players and then everything starts to unravel.


    So what should we be doing as referees to address this?


    Becoming more adept at making the correct call is an obvious starting point, but thereís more to it than that.


    When a referee identifies an individual responsible for collapsing, then that player has to be sin-binned quickly if he does not listen to instructions.


    In the contact area, blatant infringements when a side is in a scoring position almost always result in an immediate yellow card.


    Ben Franks of the All Blacks is shown the yellow card by referee Nigel Owens during the Rugby Championship match between South Africa Springboks and the New Zealand All Blacks at Ellis Park on October 5, 2013Ben Franks of the All Blacks is shown the yellow card by referee Nigel Owens during the Rugby Championship match between Springboks and the All Blacks
    The Wales stars with a point to prove this Six Nations


    We must apply the same zero tolerance approach to scrums but we donít always see that at present. It is high time that we did.


    Letís see earlier yellow cards, and then if the player re-enters the fray and re-offends letís see a red.


    And yet to me the solution can probably be found before anyone sets foot across the white line. It surely lies in greater collaboration between officials, coaches and, yes, players.


    Iíll give you an example of how that can work.


    Two seasons ago we were having a real problem with the scrum during the Six Nations and something clearly had to be done.


    Joel Jutge, the IRB professional referees manager, convened a meeting among us all in which we identified the main offenders, the players we believed were causing the problems through their negative approach.


    The coaches of those countries were then approached and told they had a choice; they either sorted it out by getting the player to change his ways or they could expect to see him yellow-carded at an early juncture during future matches.


    The following season the problems we had been having improved significantly, so perhaps we need to see that sort of communication happening on a much wider level.


    Look, scrums collapse in rugby. Always have done, always will. There are occasions when nobody is at fault and a reset is unavoidable.


    But in the last few months I agree that the regularity with which it is happening in the elite game is a cause for concern, not least because it is short-changing paying spectators.


    We must get it right because the scrum has to remain an integral part of rugby union.


    Iíve heard some argue it should be scrapped as a contest but that would just close the game down to potential players and we cannot go down that route.


    It is up to us all to do something about this problem because it wonít go away on its own.


    The answer does not lie in tweaking rugbyís statute books though.


    No, it is down to a state of mind. And it is players, and coaches, who hold the key.

    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/sport/r...eferee-8451864

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    While Wyatt Crockett remains on the list of top scrummagers in the world, this issue will continue.

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    C'mon the

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    Have always liked Owens as a ref; can be pedantic at times, but generally lets players know what he wants on the pitch and is as consistent in his decisions as a one-eyed supporter can acknowledge. I hope he doesn't stop reffing anytime soon, but would be a good person to become the IRB refs manager when he does hang up the boots.

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    I agree Sheikh he is one of the very best going around although he had an absolute bloody shocker ENG V AB'S last season.

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