Justin Marshall is a former All Blacks halfback and current columnist for the New Zealand Herald

Justin Marshall Chalkboard - How No8s can thrive under new halfback law

We're not seeing quick and explosive guys like Victor Vito, Kieran Read and especially Liam Squire charge off the back of scrums. Photo / Getty
We're not seeing quick and explosive guys like Victor Vito, Kieran Read and especially Liam Squire charge off the back of scrums. Photo / Getty

I would like to talk about the new law interpretations in place for this Super Rugby season.

When the powers that be tamper with laws and bring new ideas in everybody who follows the game breathes nervously. You wonder where they're going to go. But I think they've got these right; play on from a scrum collapse providing the referee deems that no one is at risk (which helps stop constant re-sets), and the rolling maul change which rightly penalises shepherding. But my favourite is the change concerning the positioning of the defending halfback at a scrum.

Before he used to be able to get around and disrupt the No8 and opposition halfback, but now he can't go past the opposition flanker, while still remaining within a metre of the scrum in terms of width. He is confined to a much smaller area and his defensive options are more limited.

Now, even if your scrum is compromised by an opposition wheel, or pressure, you can still clear the ball and that helps create more of a free-flowing attacking spectacle. It also opens up much more on attack, especially on loosehead or the left-hand side.

 We're not seeing quick and explosive guys like Victor Vito, Kieran Read and especially Liam Squire charge off the back of scrums. Photo / Getty
We're not seeing quick and explosive guys like Victor Vito, Kieran Read and especially Liam Squire charge off the back of scrums. Photo / Getty

What I am surprised about, however, is that teams haven't taken advantage of this extra time and space. This move helps get No8s into the game, but we're not seeing quick and explosive guys like Victor Vito, Kieran Read, and especially Liam Squire charge off the back of scrums like the days of Buck Shelford or Zinzan Brooke.

No8s picking up the ball and charging now have only a No6 or No7 stopping them from making the advantage line or smashing into the opposition inside backs.

I would like teams to think more about how they use their powerful players at the back of the scrum. I wonder if teams are thinking two or three phases ahead and thinking the No8 won't be available to charge off a resulting ruck if he does it from a scrum, but the set piece has just become a more attacking option.

Now you can launch a scrum attack and draw loose forwards and halfback and open up the field. Endless possibilities can be explored which aren't at the moment.

- NZ Herald

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