Scrums have been chopping up to 20 minutes out of some NPC matches during the first five weeks of the competition.
The incredible statistic is one of the major frustrations referees' bosses are grappling with as they try to get through the teething period of the IRB's new scrum laws.
Though the actual act of packing the scrum is the focal point, it is the delays either side which are creating most frustration.
It's believed it's been taking an average of about 18 minutes of cumulative time between the referee blowing his whistle for a knock-on, to the time the ball is back in play.
With somewhere between 15 and 25 scrums per match the time quickly mounts up.
While coaches are blaming the International Rugby Board's global trial of "crouch, bind, set", the referees believe the players are at fault.
Referees boss Rod Hill has warned the "transition period" is over and says constant delays in getting into formation and subsequent resets will no longer be tolerated.
Tactics to speed things up could include referees free kicking forward packs that are not ready to pack down in time.
During Super Rugby referees tolerated only one reset before going to a penalty or free kick and that policy may soon be applied to the NPC.
Considering the average time the ball has been in play during the current NPC has been 32 minutes (referees want it to be close to 40), the scrum has an awful lot to answer for.
The time delays are yet another black mark against the IRB's global trial, one introduced primarily to avoid long-term injuries to front rowers.
That goal is an admirable one, but the scrums have become a blight on the game at the higher levels.
During last Saturday's test between the All Blacks and South Africa at Eden Park there were similar problems during a match that featured 20 scrums.
Of those there were five resets and seven infringements meaning the ball came out cleanly only eight times.
Under the old engagement laws used during Super Rugby the ball was back in play on the first feed more than 70 per cent of the time.
The NPC scrums are currently running at 65 per cent once they actually pack down.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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