After extensive consultations about reducing the level of dangerous injuries in scrums, the International Rugby Board reveals today that the scrum is to be replaced altogether by a tug-of-war.
As players become heavier and stronger, they are increasingly at risk of dangerous impact injuries as the opposing sides engage, while the authorities’ inability to address the problem of collapsed scrums means the incidence of potentially disabling neck and spine injuries continues unabated.
Martyn Thomas, Chairman of England’s Rugby Football Union, welcomes the decision. “Let’s face it, the scrum is a pretty daft way of gaining a bit of territory, and after all that effort the ball goes in and pops out and you wonder what all the fuss was about,” said Mr Thomas from Twickenham today. “It was only really developed as a way of letting off steam and of terrifying weaker boys in school games. A tug-of-war is much better and just as manly.”
In an accompanying move, the equally silly lineout will be replaced by a soccer-style throw in, although the ball will not be permitted to be thrown forward. “This should end all the play-acting and lifting that goes on, and enable the game to flow more freely,” said Mr Thomas. “Any lifting will be punishable by a five metre penalty, and the person lifted will have to wear a pink tutu for the rest of the game.”
England coach Martin Johnson said that while he was broadly supportive of the changes, the tug-of-war had already revealed dangers of its own in trial matches. Referees have had difficulties in getting the sides to ‘take the strain’ fairly, and teams that get away with pulling early have often gained tens of metres and scored easy tries.
Complaints of sore hands have been dismissed, but a case of a Number 8 dragged half the length of the pitch with the rope round his neck after a collapsed tug is under investigation.