The East Terrace
IRB to act on 'daft looking' scrum caps
James Stafford
November 25, 2011
Should rugby's enforcers like Martin Johnson be allowed to wear scrum caps? © Getty Images

The International Rugby Board appears to be considering drastic proposals to outlaw the scrum cap from all levels of rugby within the next twelve months.

Whilst some legal experts claim that an outright ban may not be feasible in the short term, the IRB may at the very least consider imposing in game penalties and sanctions against players and teams who use what the IRB are calling a 'superfluous item'.

The game's governing body is driven by a concern that rugby is increasingly losing its 'masculine' edge and is fast becoming more soccer like in its outward appearance and culture. With ever outlandish kit designs from club and national teams; soccer style collarless shirts; a rise in play acting by players; the common use of coloured boots and fake tan; increasingly outlandish try celebrations and high levels of personal grooming, the IRB is worried that rugby's tough image, which is major part of the sport's appeal to sponsors, broadcasters and supporters, may become undermined and lead to long term decline in revenues and following.

The IRB have created a working group to review the benefits of radically changing rugby's laws to help salvage the game's image and prevent players, officials and teams from looking 'increasingly ridiculous and somewhat cowardly'. Whilst everything from the issue of fake tans and coloured boots will be addressed, it seems a crusade against the scrum cap will be the overriding priority of the Dublin based lawmakers.

Amongst the radical proposals the working group will consider is a deduction of five match points to a team for each player who takes to the field wearing scrum cap. Meaning a team starting with two scrum-capped players would start the match with minus ten points. Some IRB members wish to go further and are pushing for minus fifty points for any back who wears a cap. This proposal of docking points might prevent the legal complexities which would come with attempting an outright ban.

"There is a bizarre perception in rugby circles about scrum caps," said IRB analyst Robert Cleeve. "Some players and fans seem to think scrum caps are a useful way of protecting against concussion. Whilst it may help with minor cuts and abrasions, scrums caps have never been proven to help reduce incidences of concussion. There is also a school of thought that, if anything, scrum caps give a false sense of confidence to those who may already have an existing head injury. You often see players who have suffered a major head knock return to the field with a scrum cap or play the following week with one.

There is expected to be significant opposition in some quarters to the proposal, particularly from girly three-quarters and halfbacks who seem to increasingly fond of hiding behind the silly looking caps

"As scrum caps cannot protect against concussion the player should instead retire from a match or rest in subsequent weeks. More worryingly, it is quite common that players, especially children, who wear a cap may feel overconfident from the assumed extra protection and take a more aggressive approach to contact and actually raise the chance of injury. This is a big worry at youth and mini rugby level where it may mask inferior technique. But more importantly than any of what I have just mentioned is that they look really, really stupid."

IRB officials point to severe offenders such as the All Blacks' second row Ali Williams as an example of how stupid the whole scrum cap concept is.

"Williams' attitude is of particular concern," said Cleeve. "Before a New Zealand test match he is known for being particularly aggressive and confrontational during the haka. However, moments after his intimidating performance he jogs off and straps some foam to his head to keep him nice and safe. What would the likes of Wayne Shelford or 'Pinetree' Meads think? It makes a mockery of the sport."

There is expected to be significant opposition in some quarters to the proposal, particularly from girly three-quarters and halfbacks who seem to increasingly fond of hiding behind the silly looking caps despite it making them look both preposterous and somewhat of a 'scaredy-cat'.

But Cleeve blasted defenders of the scrum cap, particularly those who favour the argument they ward off the dreaded cauliflower ear.

"It really is a weak defense," said Cleeve. "Just put on some Vaseline or tape. That's all. If you are worried about damaging your pretty ears, go do yoga, Zumba or play soccer. Really, it's embarrassing."

The IRB are hoping old school legends such as Simon Shaw will become ambassadors for players, particularly second rows, not wearing scrum caps.

"We are striving," said Cleeve, "To get the likes of Simon Shaw and Martin Johnson with us on this. We hope they will front our planned 'Just Toughen the Hell Up' campaign next season. We want to develop a mocking culture towards anyone wearing the cap. Also, if you are a kicker and need to remove your scrum cap whilst taking a shot at goal, what does that say about how uncomfortable and stupid they are? Enough with this!"

Other proposals being considered should the outright ban fail include:

* Players posing for victory photos/lifting trophies in scrum caps (a la Michael Owen in Welsh Grand Slam of 2005) to be digitally removed from all images and airbrushed out of history.
* When referees unsure about a decision on the field they are always to give the benefit of the doubt to non-cap wearing players.
* Scrum caps to be covered in 'Watch out, you may give me an abrasion!' warning signs.
* Any player acting tough or trying to build a macho image (a la James Haskell) and wearing a cap to be mocked over tannoy system every five minutes during a match.
* Commentators obliged to insert terms such as 'cowardly', 'stupid looking', 'disgrace to the spirit of the game' before referencing players wearing scrum caps.
* Players wearing scrum caps on the field to be forced to wear them everyday, all day, even during their personal life.

The East Terrace attempted to gain comment from players who wear headgear for this article, but they were unable to hear us due to the muffling effects on ears of said caps. They were also scared of anyone coming near them and hid upon approach.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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