Friday 19 January 2018

'Striking' now a forgotten art for modern-day scrums

TIME was, the art of striking was one of the specialist skills in rugby, with hookers staying behind after training to perfect their technique.

It required cohesion with the scrum-half feeding the ball into the scrum and the traditional method was for the hooker to tap his left hand indicating that he was ready for the delivery.

The strike would have to be perfectly judged either for fast 'channel one' ball between the flanker and No 8 and straight out to the backs, or the more measured 'channel two' hit which would make its way back to the No 8's feet.

It also allowed for strikes 'against the head' -- which were rare but possible if the opposing hooker anticipated the feed.

Those days are gone. With the southern hemisphere-driven imperative to make rugby more 'entertaining', the scrum is increasingly viewed merely as a way to restart the game rather than as first point of contact and a means of exerting dominance over the opposition.

Referees are struggling to come to terms with what is happening at scrum-time and the result is a plethora of free-kicks and penalties which all too frequently lets the overpowered side off the hook.

However, the one illegality at scrum-time, ignored by referees, is the crooked feed and scrum-halves can now feed the ball directly into the second row with no risk of censure.

The scrum is a long-established joke in rugby league and now union is heading the same way. Striking? That has become a forgotten art.

Irish Independent

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