Munster's scrum a concern for Payne
Published 16/02/2011 | 05:00
Shaun Payne has identified preconceptions relating to the Munster scrum as a source of major concern for the southern province.
Last Sunday's front-row debacle against Treviso prompted the former full-back to outline the supposed injustices brought about by erroneous perceptions.
Munster conceded 11 penalties during their 19-18 defeat to the Italian minnows, seven of which came directly as a result of scrum transgressions.
Props Darragh Hurley and Stephen Archer regularly incurred the wrath of referee James Jones, and Wian du Preez was yellow-carded for his first scrum indiscretion shortly after coming on as a second-half substitute.
All the while, the misdemeanours of Italian international props Ignacio Fernandez Rouyet and Lorenzo Cittadini -- who were clearly guilty of early engagements -- went unnoticed.
Payne avoided direct criticism of Jones, but expressed considerable alarm over what is becoming a growing trend.
"There is a concern (about perception), and it is a talking point," he said. "Whether that is correct or not is up for debate. It's being discussed, and it would be remiss of me not to say that it is a concern, because it is.
"If there is a preconception there and the first penalty goes against you, you are then up against it for the rest of the game. The only thing we can do is sit down, work on the scrummaging week-in week-out, as we are doing, and look to improve it and put pressure on other sides. We can change the perception that way."
Payne also believes that the IRB needs to further examine the current formula for scrum engagements, which have become a bit of a joke since the advent of the four-step process in 2007.
Far from becoming agitated over refereeing failures, he has quite a lot of sympathy for officials given the difficulties they face.
"It's gone a little bit crazy," he admitted. "You can talk about interpretations but the referees are under massive pressure. This is why we are getting strange decisions.
"I have never played in the front-row -- I don't profess to have a clue why a scrum collapses, and I guarantee that there are many front-rowers who would look at it and wouldn't know either.
"But I think that far too much of our attention gets drawn into this scrum-time debate. It needs to be sorted.
"It's a macro issue and there is pressure on the teams, the coaches and the referees, who are under massive pressure to ensure scrums don't last for three minutes with six resets, for example.
"Decisions are being forced. What's the solution? You tell me, I don't know, but something needs to be done."
Munster will be looking to get back to winning ways on Friday night when they entertain Edinburgh in the Magners League.
Ronan O'Gara, Peter Stringer and Denis Leamy have all been released from international duty and will all come into contention for the Thomond Park showdown, while front-rows Marcus Horan, Tony Buckley and Denis Fogarty are also likely to feature.