By Keith Quinn Rugby Writer
Published: 1:05PM Tuesday May 03, 2011
I am starting to think that it will be CTPE which will decide the outcome of the seventh Rugby World Cup in October of this year. I watch rugby as often as I can, and even more so in this Rugby World Cup year, but it is the CTPE which is getting to me. CTPE is killing the game.
You know what it is don't you?
It's the diminutive abbreviation for those four horror words 'Crouch - Touch - Pause - Engage' which are now so familiar to us all in watching any rugby game. There is a good case to be point out those four words, either spoken out loud by referees at scrum time or used as abbreviations by clever media buggers, are now the bane of every scrum in every game at the top level of the game these days.
I am starting to believe that unless something serious is attended to we may see our highly anticipated Rugby World Cup tournament dominated by scrum time penalties. And therefore the team with the most penalties, and therefore the most shots at goal, will be the team to eventually hold highest the shiny gold cup.
These pauses in play while scrums are being set and re-set again (remember one Super 15 game in Australia had seven minutes of continuous re-start scrummaging a few weeks ago) have become deeply aggravating to watch. And they raise the question - who or what is going to stop them ruining each game the fans pay their good money to go and see? Do we just accept they are part of the game - or can we the punters help bring about change? (It was really sad at the recent Hong Kong Sevens to hear the crowd start to sing, to the tune of 'She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain,' a new ditty, 'Crouch - Touch - Pause - Engage - Collapse! )
So I ask a question; who of the people on the field of play at scrum time are most to blame for the grunting, posturing, whistle blasts and scrum disintegrations? The front row battlers? Or the referees?
I'm starting to think the easy targets - the referees - are NOT the ones who are mostly at fault. It is instead the crafty scrummaging front row prop forwards who cause more grief of delaying tactics, scrums imploding and interminable re-sets.
I like to see things in simple terms. From what I hear the refs before these big Super Rugby games meet the props and hookers in the dressing sheds beforehand and ask them to do just two things when they get set to pack down for a scrum. One is to 'set up properly, to bind straight on their opposite player and then push only straight ahead.' That is it.
If done properly, a working-together front row should hit, feel the weight come in from the second row and move forward. That is if they are stronger than their opponents combined weight and scrum teamwork. A good solid, straight 'hit' should allow a forward moving team to either roll over the ball or hook it back.
It's that simple. The 'CTPE,' as called during the game, is the referee confirming those instructions and of course he also has to have safety in mind. We all agree on that bit.
But what we now seem to see in every darn game is muscled-up front row players not adhering to those simple scrum ideals. Instead there are often pushes ahead of the mark, players crunching in on the angle, or simply not pushing ahead. And their head and shoulders go below the recommended shoulder and hips which leads to collapses.
[As a side bar I am inclined to suggest that prop forwards on the left side of each front row (the loose head props) should not be too rigidly controlled by the refs if their outer hand reaches down and touches the ground. But that is only if the hand is being used to hopefully prevent a collapse. Conversely if they touch the ground because they haven't set up properly the ref ought to correct that with either a word (warning) or a free kick. That is offending.]
What we seem to see now is bulky guys, playing for their lives, committed to winning their personal battle with their opposite prop. That is so that the better guy can go off the field at the end and say out loud 'I did my bloke over.' And presumably he then gets selected for the next game.
But it is to obtain that advantage that is causing the issues. There seems to be an attitude from the prop players to conveniently forget what the ref said beforehand and instead in the brutal contact moments have a preference to try to do murky scrum things to gain a personal advantage over their rival which the ref doesn't see!
So what happens to crowd reaction when collapses occur? When the beady -eyed bloke with the whistle does see the gamesmanship happen, or outright offending in the front row, and he blows his whistle it is the crowd who then boo the referee. The players are getting little or no 'blame' at all.
The endless ritualistic wrestling at every scrum after the 'CTPE' call has been made which leads to so many penalties it has become boringly unsightly.
I wonder what the attitude will be to scrums at the Rugby World Cup? Will those arbiters of rugby's laws - those men in suits who sit around tables in Dublin at IRB Headquarters and watch videos at or study match stats - make scrummaging easier on the eye and to understand? I doubt it. It is too late now for change this year.
But when I see empty seats in our New Zealand stadiums before so-called big games this year, to the point where it looks like the TV coverage has just crossed over as a fire drill has been called, I wonder why this is.
Rugby crowds are not great these days and there are whispers that TV audiences could improve too. So what are the blights on the game which are causing this? Is there too much of rugby? Maybe. But not really. You can choose whether you want to watch.
Or does the game have one fundamental part of it which has now become an eyesore and is driving people away?
I am calling for a simple change of attitude. Why not dear fans, instead of blindly shouting at the referee when scrums collapse, shouldn't we take an attitude instead of calling on those big lunkheads in the front rows to adhere more to the very simple principles of the rugby scrum?
If they do then maybe the CTPE bit we hear so shrilly called out will be seen not as a prelude to an arm-wrestling fiesta which ends with faces in the dirt.
I'd like to see the Rugby World Cup handed to the team which in all parts of the game has had success in, simply and calmly, playing within the laws to help at all times to encourage the running and passing of the ball. That's what William Webb Ellis had in mind all those years ago when he set out to stuff up a soccer match.
Please remember this maxim (which I have just invented ): 'For every scrum collapse in a rugby union game, somewhere in the world at the exact same time, from a rugby league scrum the ball has come sweetly out for the backs to play with it.' http://tvnz.co.nz/rugby-news/keith-quin ... ng-4152674