Shove the scrum time shambles, says Dowd

RICHARD KNOWLER
Last updated 05:00 18/03/2014
Scrum
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TYPICAL: Another shaky scrum sends the fans to sleep during last Friday night's match between the Crusaders and Rebels in Melbourne.

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Former All Blacks prop Craig Dowd has called for an end to the scrum debacles.

Last weekend's Super Rugby match between the Crusaders and Rebels was a forgettable spectacle as referee James Leckie struggled to find a solution to the constant collapses, while the final stages of the Highlanders-Brumbies and Brumbies-Waratahs matches were ruined by a series of re-sets.

Dowd, who played 60 tests between 1993-2000, has had enough.

"I'm all for safety but it's (the new engagement) taking the advantage away from the team that didn't make the mistake that led to the scrum," Dowd said. "It's just becoming a shitfight, a free-for-all."

The Crusaders were miffed Leckie didn't yellow card Rebels loosehead prop Toby Smith who struggled with his bind and technique against Owen Franks and also believed the succession of collapses stalled any chance of gaining momentum.

Many coaches and players also believe the team not feeding the scrum gets an unfair advantage because loosehead props now have the ability to pressure the opposition tightheads, knowing their hooker has to focus on hooking the ball. This encourages an eight-man shove.

"I watched the Blues play the Lions at the weekend and they got done over big-time," Dowd added. "As soon as the hooker's foot came off the ground, both props were boring in, putting a lot pressure on and really exposing him.

"That's going to be the new technique now - to disrupt the hooker at the put-in. Teams are either going up or going down. Scrums are a mess."

Dowd has sympathy for referees instructed to operate under these new laws by the International Rugby Board.

Refs have been compromised by having to call the scrum in before giving a non-verbal signal to the halfbacks to feed the ball.

Many, if not all, coaches and players want the halfback to decide when he puts the ball in, not the official.

Dowd has recommended the referees' involvement be pared back.

"A dominant scrum should get the reward. The referee getting involved with trying to guess what is happening up front is just (silly).

"Unless they can see something glaringly obvious that is happening, they should leave it alone. And I don't think referees have picked up a whistle to get involved in the dark arts of scrummaging."

It was also time the IRB reviewed the rule preventing props placing their hand on the deck to prevent a scrum from collapsing, he said. If putting a hand on the ground allowed the game to continue, he questioned why it was such a crime.

"If props put their hand on the ground, then big deal. If they get an advantage out if it, then great. And it could stop a scrum from collapsing."

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