Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

Wynne Gray: Scrum tinkering more fog from the IRB

There are other more pressing areas to work on but the board just can't stop its tinkering

I feel like I imagine Conrad Smith did last Sunday.

Another fog has blown down from the IRB as they make another mind-numbing change to the scrum engagement sequence.

Some "think-tank" mob have approved new calls after exhaustive trials and thoughts on the scheme.

So in the past few years we have gone from "chuck it in pal", to "crouch, touch, pause, engage", then we shifted to "crouch, touch, set" and now we are heading for "crouch, bind, set".

The IRB has justified the latest sequence as a way of offering a fair scrum at elite levels and enhancing player welfare. All very noble and anything to guard against or limit serious injury is fine. If so we should eliminate tackles, cleaning out at rucks and sacking mauls.

If there is one area of the game which needs fixing it is the tackled ball and breakdown. Not the scrum but the unfathomable pileups which now carry the badge for an area of the game which used to be rucks.

When the referee whistles a halt or a penalty at the breakdown, spectators risk neck injuries as they invariably ask their neighbour "what the hell was that for"?

We're talking here about the good folk who spend their hard-earned and stump up to watch games live, not those souls who prefer to watch telecasts because they want to see the action and hear the official's explanation.

The breakdown is a bigger mystery than Loch Ness which may explain why the IRB refuses to seek any solutions. How spectators, officials or players are expected to process 73 questions and sub-sections of those inquiries, every time a tackle or breakdown occurs, is more mind blowing than Aaron Gilmore's ropey explanations.

Tack on the recent wacky theories from Lyndon Bray about the definition of forward passes and you wonder whether the IRB fog has infiltrated the Sanzar air-conditioning ducts.

Coaches and players have a mantra which works well for most. We all know it as "keep it simple stupid". While that's going on the game's administrators seem intent on making the rules more complicated.

Since they outlawed rucking, the shape of rugby has altered drastically and not for the best.

The athletes are better and they produce some marvellous contests. But if they had more space because the breakdown became a serious challenge within the game instead of a mystery, rugby would be a much better sport.

Chances of an IRB rethink on rucks? Crouch, touch pause, zzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

- NZ Herald

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Wynne Gray is a Herald columnist

The latest commentary and analysis from senior rugby writer Wynne Gray. Wynne has been covering the All Blacks for more than 27 years and has attended more than 230 All Blacks tests live for the Herald.

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