Gregor Paul

Gregor Paul is the Herald on Sunday's rugby writer

Rugby: Hansen raises scrummaging law

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. Photo / Getty Images
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. Photo / Getty Images

A vital part of the All Blacks' preparation was completed yesterday when Steve Hansen flew to London for an IRB-led meeting between coaches and referees.

As Richie McCaw said, it would have been interesting to have been a fly on the wall for that one.

Hansen isn't one to be obtuse or verbose: he gets to the point and usually always knows what that is. On this occasion, the point was to ask some questions about the new scrummaging laws.

The All Blacks, as they will admit, are struggling with them. They haven't got their timing right and have been a bit of a shambles at times this season on their own ball. That's been a surprise. They have been a consistently good scrummaging side since 2005. And in forwards coach Mike Cron they have one of the world's most renowned scrummaging experts.

Cron was also on the IRB panel that researched the new laws and experimented until they had a format they felt was right. After more than a year of trials, the research committee fixed on the idea of the pre-bind that we are seeing now.

But when they were trialling, they didn't ask for the halfback to put the ball in straight.

Nor did they envisage that the referee would control the timing of the put-in. Now this may not seem like much, but is in fact massively significant. The All Blacks say their problems are most acute when they have to strike for the ball - that the hooker's leg doesn't reach the centre line these days because of the size and dynamism of the respective packs. That leads to the hooker compromising his position to win the ball - effectively leaving the side putting the ball in with just seven men to push.

Hansen would probably have been labouring the point that it doesn't make sense to hand the defending team the scrummaging advantage. Just as passionately, he'll have put forward the solution: that if the ball is allowed to go in as it did for decades - not quite straight - then the issue would be immediately fixed. Being able to co-ordinate the timing of the put-in between attacking halfback and hooker would go a long way towards helping as well.

The ref, Hansen may have suggested, should just mind his own beeswax on that front and let the players sort out the business.

If he made any headway, then the All Blacks will have gone a long way towards helping their chances not just in Paris, but also London and Dublin.

- NZ Herald

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