Johnson seeks clarity from IRB on scrum refereeing

Scott Johnson: Fury over fouls. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Scott Johnson: Fury over fouls. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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SCOTLAND interim coach Scott Johnson is to seek clarification from the IRB on how scrum laws are refereed.

Johnson believes a key part of his team’s attacking weaponry is being de-fused by teams conning officials in the RBS Six Nations Championship.

Scotland went into their match against Wales on Saturday knowing that victory at Murrayfield would secure an historic first three-in-a-row in the tournament and put them within two points of leaders England heading into this weekend’s final round of games.

But the Scottish scrum, which dominated Italy and Ireland, was warned by South African referee Joubert twice in the first minute for apparently driving in too early. It became a major talking point, and contributed to a startling 30 penalties and free-kicks which sucked the life out of the international.

Johnson, whose team were beaten 28-18, insisted: “We’re struggling to know what we’re doing wrong, and we will look at ourselves because I don’t want to criticise referees.

“But we’ve been penalised in a few games now, and we’re not going early. We’re just not. There’s this illusion that we are and it’s frustrating the hell out of us. There will be a couple of phone calls this week [to the IRB] and we’ll see what we come up with, because my ears are hearing something else to this ‘crouch, touch, set’, or whatever it is now.”

Scotland face a France side in Paris on Saturday that started favourites for the title but now sit bottom of the heap with a solitary point and need at least a draw to stave off the humiliation of a first Six Nations wooden spoon. England continued their slow march to a Grand Slam with an unconvincing 18-11 win over Italy at Twickenham yesterday, and now meet Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.

Scotland have improved on last year’s whitewash under Andy Robinson with two wins from their first four matches, but, after faltering performances against Ireland and Wales, a third win could be decisive in whether Johnson is handed the opportunity to coach the team through to the 2015 World Cup.

He will go to Paris without Sale lock Richie Gray, who suffered a torn hamstring on Saturday. His injury will be scanned today but there are fears that he could be ruled out for up to eight weeks, which would threaten his selection for the British and Irish Lions tour to Hong Kong and Australia, which leaves at the end of May.

“It looks bad but he will play again this season,” insisted ­Johnson, “and we have good men to come in.

“What I like is that other sides would have been crushed in games like that against Wales and Ireland, and we didn’t, but we have potency in our side to put sides away and we can’t show that without a platform 
up front, and we’re just not getting a platform, so we’ve got to work out why when we have a world-class scrum, really good lineout and a good maul. But we’re certainly not throwing in the towel. We’re going to France to play a bit of footy.”

He added: “We’ve represented ourselves pretty well this year, and we’re not going to now go into our shells.”