Rugby and the letter of the law


A chara, – Rugby is never going to be a world game as long as the rules are so complex and the interpretations so varied that even the experts can disagree on what should be clear-cut decisions.

The classic example of a law not enforced is “crooked in” at a scrum.

More often than not the ball is put into the second row or even back row, so that the hooker couldn’t hook the ball even if he wanted to. It has all but destroyed the scrum as a real contest. Teams now play for penalties at scrums, not to contest the ball.

A second example happened last wee-end when Rees-Zammit clearly lost control of the ball but it hit his calf and bounced backwards before hitting the ground. Most expert commentary called it a knock-on because he had lost control of the ball.

But there is no mention of “losing control of the ball” in the knock-on rule which mentions only that it has to be lost forward before hitting the ground or another player. By the letter of the law, it wasn’t a knock-on.

The result of these and a host of other ambiguities is that the referee becomes the most important “player” on the pitch, and games are becoming a penalty fest. Teams are coached to “play the referee” on the basis of his past history but are then completely thrown when he changes his interpretation of a law – as happened in the Ireland v Italy match.

The laws should either be applied all the time, without fear or favour, or they should be changed. Anything else puts the referees in the firing line, open to accusations of bias, and leaves the fans disillusioned, and the general public put off the game.

It’s time World Rugby cleaned up its act. – Yours, etc,



Co Wicklow.