you slow the ball down people can get their defensive lines in
place. And when they are two feet in front of where they should
be, then there’s just no space.”
When Hansen says the rugby fraternity has gone too far with
its desire to build effective rush defences, it’s hard not to
conclude many in the sport – coaches and players everywhere –
have gone too far with their thinking in nearly all aspects.
For a game built on the Corinthian spirit of fairness and
sportsmanship, it’s surprising that it now finds itself with a
culture of what those earning a coin in rugby say is innovation
but should really be called cheating.
There’s no getting away from the fact that rugby, more
than any other sport, has a pandemic culture of rule bending
and breaking.
Coaches and players are constantly finding ways to manipulate
the archaic law book and take advantage of the interpretative
rather than literal nature
of the rules. This year we saw the new
strategy of teams backing off at lineouts
to try to force referees to penalise the
attacking team if they set up a driving
maul. It was legal but symptomatic of this
desire teams have to focus on nding
questionable advantages.
Earlier this year Toulouse player Yohan
Huget was fined for faking injury to try to
win a penalty. Clipped on the shoulder as
he chased a high ball, he collapsed
clutching his face.
The jackal tackle – where the defending
player swings his leg over from an offside
position – was another clever but dubious
ploy that had to eventually be outlawed.
And that’s the problem with the game
– why do so many teams have this desire
to cheat?
It pervades deep and it means that
referees, already compromised by the
rules, face the near impossible task of
policing players hell-bent on getting away
with that they can. And they are good at it.
Some players – especially loose
forwards – are expert at making it look
like they are competing for the ball on the
ground when in fact they are simply
hoping for a penalty by giving the
impression someone is holding onto it.
Frontrows practise screwing and
pulling and all sorts of different binding
techniques to test the astuteness of the
referee. The breakdown is effectively a
free for all as players try their luck
entering from different places and rarely
attempt to stay on their feet.
“I don’t really understand a lot of the
calls made by the referees,” says former
All Black legend Christian Cullen. I’m not
really sure what is going on at the tackled
ball much of the time and it all happens so
fast and players are so good at pushing the
boundaries. I wonder if referees end up
guessing a bit as I know I am.”
The scrum engagement
and subsequent battle is
often fraught with