Gallaher Cup - New Zealand v France
Scrum farce tipped to end
June 12, 2013
The scrums were a blight on an otherwise entertaining first Test between New Zealand and France © Getty Images
The scrum farce that turned the first All Blacks-France Test into a tedious spectacle won't be repeated during the rest of the series, at least that is the view of former All Blacks prop Dave Hewett, the Crusaders scrum coach who believes the collapse-ridden Test in Auckland was a classic case of what happens when two rugby cultures collide.
The 17 scrums at Eden Park lasted more than a minute each on average, robbing the Test of 20 minutes' playing time. Ten scrums ended with a penalty or free kick. Eight of those went to the All Blacks, playing a big part in their 23-13 win.
English referee Wayne Barnes clearly tired of ordering resets as the Test wore on, letting play continue in the second half despite the front rows continuing to go down. Hewett said southern hemisphere teams use the speed of the front row hit to gain ascendancy, while their northern counterparts place less emphasis on the engagement. For France, it is more about the battle after contact.
"What we saw isn't usual. But it happens when you get two styles that haven't had a crack at each other for some time," Hewett told NZ Newswire. "They'll have had a week knowing what they're up against. This week you'll find the scrums don't collapse as much."
Hewett said France clearly have the biggest adjustment to make ahead of the second Test at Christchurch on Saturday, given the penalty count against them. However, he believes the All Blacks will also want to adjust, because winning stable scrum ball can be a better attacking outcome than earning a penalty.
Claims that scrum problems are infecting Super Rugby were rejected by Hewett, who has noted an improvement. The 22-Test loose-head supports the International Rugby Board's latest engagement sequence which will be trialled in the domestic National Provincial Championship competition. The All Blacks will also use it on their November tour to Europe.
Referees will replace "crouch, touch set" with "crouch, bind, set", prompting props to bind before hitting. Hewett says it has safety benefits and should result in less collapses. Although the reduced impact won't please some stalwarts, rugby needs to address its image, Hewett says.
"You've got to get people along to the game. If it becomes a scrum-off, a lot of people don't really enjoy it. If you get bums on seats, a good contest and good delivery of the ball, then I'm all for it."