Sport Rugby

Saturday 24 February 2018

Greg Feek: Refs must be consistent with new scrum laws

Leinster scrum coach Greg Feek
Leinster scrum coach Greg Feek
Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

THAT this is a time of transition for front-rows and referees alike was made clear during Romain Poite's horror show at Eden Park on Saturday when he was forced to re-set a scrum between New Zealand and South Africa because he had mixed up the calls.

Calling "crouch, touch, pause engage" instead of "crouch, bind, set" was far from the French official's worst crime in a game he'll want to forget, but coming as it did during a series of re-sets that took more than two minutes before a free-kick was finally given, it summed up the most frustrating area of the game at the moment and drew the ire of the locals.

Hours later, Leinster were left perplexed as Leighton Hodges sent Sean Cronin to the sin-bin for pushing before the ball came in at a key stage in the Pro12 champions' draw with the Ospreys. The decision left coach Matt O'Connor flummoxed as he spoke of the frustration for everyone involved in the rugby.

Having neutralised the initial hit and begun enforcing the straight put-in once again, the IRB have attempted to revolutionise an area that has been a thorn in the game's side for years.

However, the new procedure has not gone as smoothly as they would have liked.

Leinster scrum coach Greg Feek believes it will be positive in the end, but he wants referees to be consistent and patient as front rows adjust to the regime.

"If the referees are prepared to work with coaches, we could maybe share stuff and get this going to a better place," he said.

"There's definitely been less collapses and I think the players have noticed the difference, so there are parts of the laws that I think have brought benefits.

"It's certainly got the think-tank going, you'll see teams trying different things, even the stance.

"The closer hit means there's not so much importance to getting a hit. A lot of dynamics have changed and with the hooker striking the ball it has presented a lot more pressure on him and he feels a bit more vulnerable.

"Players will find ways to work it. Once we get all those little things sorted out then we're a long way to getting it better."

Although the machinations of the front-row left them frustrated on Saturday night, Leinster did have positives in that area.

Jack McGrath has continued his excellent form from the end of last season and looks ready to challenge Cian Healy for the No 1 jersey, while Lansdowne's Martin Moore is emerging in Ireland's problem position – tighthead prop.

"Jack is going great guns," Feek agreed. "He's been a chained-up dog for the last 12 months. Marty is in the frame now and with more game-time and a bit more experience against wily old props and a higher-paced game, he'll slowly grow as well."

Leinster's schedule has tested them early and they face another tough trip to Glasgow Warriors on Friday.

Healy could come into contention along with Rob Kearney, while Luke Fitzgerald could return and Fergus McFadden could also come back into the picture.

Brian O'Driscoll, Jamie Heaslip and Sean O'Brien are likely to be kept on ice a little longer. Lote Tuqiri is in Dublin, but cannot train until he receives a work permit.

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