Ewen McKenzie hits out at ‘lottery’ of scrum rule

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Ewen McKenzie won a World Cup as part of a formidable front row that included Tony Daly and Phil Kearns yet he is mystified as to what is happening in the scrums as teams grapple with new laws in this year’s Rugby Championship.

The International Rugby Board has introduced a new engagement procedure that is aimed at lessening the initial impact, reducing the number of collapses and resets, and allowing for technically better packs to benefit.

The Wallabies have long had issues with the scrum – particularly against sides that concentrate on the technical side of the dark art – and were twice shunted off the ball in their 27-16 Rugby Championship loss to the All Blacks in Wellington yesterday which ensured New Zealand retained the Bledisloe Cup, the symbol of trans-Tasman supremacy.

McKenzie, who was capped 51 times and was considered one of the best tighthead props in the world at the time, is unsure if the referees know what it is they are looking for. “It’s a bit of a lottery,” the dejected Wallabies coach said. “I used to play in the front row [and] be able to work out what was a penalty but now I have no idea. I guess we’ll work it out eventually, but I’m lost.”

McKenzie said the All Blacks had performed well in the scrum but he felt some calls by referee Jaco Peyper had not been consistent. He pointed to one scrum when Sekope Kepu was penalised for angling in rather than staying square to his opponent, when the three previous scrums had been conducted in the same way. “There were penalties going either way,” McKenzie said. “I think Kepu got penalised for going in on the angle whereas there had been three [earlier] resets [for the same thing]. So I can’t work it out. It’s a completely different beast now.”

New Zealand winger Ben Smith followed up last week’s hat-trick of tries in Sydney with two more for the All Blacks. Debutant stand-off Tom Taylor put on an assured display with 14 points, while Israel Dagg added a penalty.

In the other Championship match, South Africa overcame Argentina to win 22-17 in Mendoza. The Springboks scored nine tries in their 73-13 win over the same opposition in Johannesburg last week, but had to rely on five penalties from No.10 Morne Steyn against a much more physical Pumas.

Argentina led for much of the encounter after tries from Juan Manuel Leguizamon and Marcelo Bosch, but Pumas indiscipline 
in the final ten minutes allowed South Africa to edge ahead and hold on for victory.