Scrum lottery will turn fans off rugby
ESPN Staff
July 3, 2013
is decision making around scrums was so inconsistent as to be a lottery? © Getty Images

Lions team manager and former Scotland international Andy Irvine has warned that fans will be driven away from rugby union unless the authorities overhaul the rules governing scrums.

He said decision making around scrums was so inconsistent as to be a lottery because of huge variations in the way referees apply the laws around the world, and that would only lead to those following the game turning off.

It was also a major headache for players and coaches who had to work out how to play under certain referees and then completely change the game plan for the next game.

"I think 20 or 30% of the time you should toss a coin rather than have a decision," Irvine said. "I'm not blaming the referees because I think they have an almost impossible job.

"Tracking the Six Nations this year, nine times out of ten there was a penalty or a free-kick awarded at the game's first scrum. During games we watched together, I said to Warren [Gatland] that there will be a penalty or a free-kick in the second scrum against the side who were penalised the first time, and most times I was correct. I don't think that is good for the game. I just think there has to be a serious rethink."

Irvine said that he sometimes sits next to former international referee Jim Fleming who is now an assessor at matches. "I'll say,'Jim, what was that for?' He'll say, X'. I'll say, 'Do you agree with that?' and he replies,'Not really'. He will say that four or five times in a game."

He also touched on an area which causes anger among many, namely the way balls are fed into scrums making them little more than another way of restarting the game rather than them having a competitive edge.

"The ball in the line-out has to be absolutely 100% accurate but in the scrum, you can put it into the back-row. These things need to be addressed as a matter of urgency."

He said that his comments were not a complaint about refereeing in the Lions series so much as a general moan about the way things are.

"I've got no qualms on this tour because we wouldn't argue with the way any of our games have gone but I just think for the good of the game it would be nice if the better team won every single time and I think we all have to admit it doesn't happen."

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