If I was asked to list the aspects of rugby union that could be improved, I’m pretty sure that my list would not be too much different from that of every other rugby fan – the laws (and how they are applied) would be right up there.
Scrums – everything about them generally, but specifically the requirement to put the ball in straight – which has been ignored at elite level for years. Worse, only this season referees in England were given a reminder by the authorities to pay particular attention to it … and haven’t.
Referees being given latitude to allow ‘flat’ passes … as opposed to the ‘old’ classic law requiring that passes must go backwards. The result has been that I should estimate that these days 40% of all passes that don’t actually (definitely) go backwards are ‘allowed’, including a significant proportion that have patently gone forwards.
With the arrival of tactical ‘rush’ and ‘wolfpack’ defences (the latter famously developed by Saracens), far too often at kick-offs, scrums and breakdowns players are off-side (as they rush forward to put pressure on the attacking team by ‘closing down their space’). If referees applied the letter of the law here, there would be more running attacking play instead of the current default of ‘kick tennis’.
On a similar theme, here’s an article worthy of as wide a viewing a readership as possible, written by Robert Kitson on the subject of ‘Whither rugby union?’ and appearing today on the website of THE GUARDIAN