I hope today finds you happy, fat and champing at the bit to rip, tear and snort into another day as a fun-luvin’, idiot-fan of the greatest game on earth.
Amid all the goings on over the week gone, we saw the game forced to reflect yet again on the spectacle of the scrum. And this was no better exemplified when, in and among an otherwise breath-taking 1pt win to the Rebel Scum over the Highlanders, we saw mindless time lost yet again to scrum resets and general scrum buggerising-about.
Now here’s the thing; readers of this erstwhile site may be aware that I love the scrum. I truly do. There is nothing else in sport quite like the symphony of kinetic energy and finesse seen in the 8 on 8 Ballet of the Brutes. But my fetishes aside, as sure as a real prop loves rum, nothing turns the average uncommitted punter off our glorious game faster than an endless series of slow scrum resets after resets. And that is particularly true in Australia where, given the prevalence of Loig and AFL, we have a public who are conditioned to body-contact games where the ball is both constantly seen and in-motion – unlike a scrum. This isn’t a problem in other areas of the larger rugby world as, quite simply, they face no realistic similar competition. Thus they can weather the ‘jiggery pokery’ of scrum gamesmanship. Indeed, some rugby cultures love it. And likewise here in Oz, given the laughing-stock that is the Loig scrum, the rugby scrum done well could be a very real product differentiator for our game in the same manner that a soaring lineout is. But, we are doing our level best to turn this opportunity into a veritable albatross around our necks.
To be specific, here we compete with two other body-contact footy codes where the ball is in-play for a minimum of 80-85% of the game-time (often close to 90%). Comparatively, in rugby, the average time for ball-in-play is currently 30-35min out of 80min. This equates to a measly 42-44% at best. Be clear, that is essentially HALF the time of the alternatives. And the overwhelming majority of this lost time is frittered away before the setting of scrums.
So what do we do about it? As I said, this isn’t a problem to the rest of the larger rugby world where the competition for eyes suffers not from the direct parallel competition which is ensconced here in Oz landscape. So we can’t really expect help from World Rugby on this front. Accordingly, particularly in the current environment of focus on player safety, I have scant hope to see WR issue a central-edict revised ‘referees interpretation’ directed at speeding up scrum engagements. So we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place here in Oz; something clearly needs to be done to speed up the setting and completion of the scrummage, but the powers-that-be cannot be relied on to do it for us.
So I propose this; RA is to issue a ‘referees’ revised interpretation’ either under the scrum law or good ‘ol Law 6.5.A, whereby in the referees briefing to captain and front-row prior to the game, the referee signals his intent to both teams that he will permit a ‘suitable delay’ (approximately 20sec, but variable to circumstances) from the calling of a scrum to when the ref will give an audible 5-1 countdown. And either side not down, set and ready to scrummage at ‘0’ gets short-armed for delay of game (just as we do for lineouts). A repeat offence is a long-arm penalty. A three-peat is a long-arm plus a cheese to the 9 for delay of game.
That will fix it. Mark my words. It’s within the Laws of the game, easy to do, will reintroduce a long-missing element of fatigue to make those big-boys work those lard arses a bit harder and will put 10min of game-time on the ball straight away, thereby adding to the overall spectacle.
And when we go play tests against teams that don’t play under such time pressure and with refs who aren’t so instructed, we will have both a fitness advantage and we won’t be hurt by any slowdown (as they would be if they had to speed up).
But enough of that palaver.
Welcome to Episode 11 of the Chewsday Chew. The purpose herein is not to write something overly sagacious, complicated or mesmerising, but rather to pose a simple observation, question or proposition and let the good readers of this esteemed site share their opinions thereafter. Call it the lazy man’s attempt to fill a void by poking our collective bear of rugby knowledge to share their reflections and lift the average beyond the humdrum.
And to that end, I’ve been paying attention to live rugby ‘sideline’ style interviews of late. And for those watching, we saw young Drew Mitchell on Saturday night reinforce the live TV cliche of avoiding working with children and animals with a fun, but nonetheless clunky and disjointed segment with a couple of the kids on the sideline at Leichhardt Oval. His seamless interactions and reactions (not) to the curve-balls of the kids got me chuckling and reflecting on the particular type of honest, articulate, disarmingly truthful yet inoffensive folk rugby interviewees tend to be.
So that got me thinking about some of the most memorable interviews I’ve seen given down the years. Firstly, of course, as an Australian, we could scarcely look past the collected works of Nick Cummins aka the self-proclaimed Honey Badger himself:
Listening to the Ockerese of young Nick, even if it did sometimes feel about as authentic as a ‘meaningful relationship’ developing from a reality-TV love-affair, it got me thinking of the manner of accents, the word-smithery and the bizarre phraseology that often accompanies the different groups and nationalities that play our game. And that rekindled the memory of a classic bit of self-deprecation from ex Melbourne Rebel, cum Bristol Bears Maxy Lahiff:
And when considering Maxy and his good humour, I was then reminded of this fantastic bit of peace and love from New Zealand’s Ruby Tui:
And such an open display of good humour then made me swing about again to consider possibly the most polite backhander of an interview I can ever recall from the blank-faced Brendan Venter:
But after all that, for me, despite him being English and despite me probably showing my penchant for The Row, this Joe Marler classic is probably my favourite as it reinforces what a genuinely good-natured, diverse, cultured and linguistically-elevated mob the players of our game tend to be:
So come one and come all. Roll out your barrels and lay bare your recollections of the best, worst, funniest, cringiest, or downright wrong rugby sideline interviews. No “full credit to da boyz” or “give it 200%” garbage here, give us the pearls of wisdom.
And as usual, extra kudos for age and obscurity.