I propose the following solution, easily understood by everyone and which makes the scrum a safer place. Rather than have the props binding their opposite number’s shirt with their free hand, this hand should instead go down to the ground to help support the scrum against collapse. And, for the duration of the scrum, although there may be times when the hand comes off the floor, this free hand is not permitted anywhere near their opponent.
‘Sacrilege!’ I hear from some quarters. A scrum, when it works properly, is something to admire with the skills of the forward actually coming together to produce something which might even be described as aesthetically pleasing. But, more often than not, what one has to watch is a heap of bodies scrambling back to their feet, one collapse after another. It has become tedious.
So what could be wrong with this suggestion? The props sweeping the ball back with this free hand is something they shouldn’t be able to get away with nowadays given the greater participation of linesmen; the dangerous caving in of the front rows, which nowadays causes a sharp intake of breath for fear of what might happen to the players, should be done away with; the shove should be more honest without the attempted destabilisation of the opponent by all the shirt-tugging that goes on, and concerns about the tight-head dropping his shoulder and boring in on the hooker would be lessened (if shoulders have to be above the hip, the free arm, in order to touch the ground, would have to be more or less straight, which makes the dropping of the shoulder more difficult).
The final point that would no doubt be brought up concerning this is the gap available for the put-in. Sure, it would be much narrower, but that shouldn’t be regarded as being a disadvantage, the opposite in fact. Indeed, might there not be the added bonus of seeing the ball being put in much straighter? Now there’s something of a rarity these days.
This putting the hand on the ground is simple, and something which allows all concerned to know exactly what’s required, and so should be simple to police. The scrummage is a structure that is almost inherently unstable and is thus a potential danger area when it perhaps needn’t be. The free arms providing columnar support at its weakest point would, I believe, be a significant step forward in making the game safer. In fact, I would go so far as to suggest this proposal is one which is immediately taken up by school and youth rugby as, from what I can gather, parental concerns about their offspring playing the game appear to be growing. This might help lessen the anxiety. Something has to be done.
Old Milnafua Road