The 5 rugby laws I hate most

Garrin Lambley (File)
Garrin Lambley (File)

Cape Town - Ok, so 'hate' is a strong word. Maybe 'detest, despise, makes-me-want-to-throw-the-remote' is closer to the truth.

It's no secret World Rugby is currently in a dire state. Not just the governing body, but the game itself around the world.

Fans have long since spoken with their feet and have given up shelling out a small fortune to attend matches live, opting instead to watch from the comfort of their lounges - or not at all.

Their reasons for doing so - in addition to the financial burden - are varied.

'Bad vibe at stadiums', 'stadiums in dangerous areas' (read Ellis Park), 'costly food and drinks on offer' and 'already have DStv' are just a few of the more common excuses offered for staying away.

Another reason that enjoys almost universal support is that rugby's laws are just too darn complicated to make the game enjoyable to watch.

Simply put, World Rugby's laws are too confusing and are being officiated in an even more baffling manner by referees.

BUT ... in defence of referees, assistant referees (ARs) and Television Match Officials (TMOs) are escaping a rollicking by being as (maybe even more so) incompetent as their colleague with the whistle.

But enough of that, my Top 5 most loathsome rugby laws - and how they are being interpreted - in no particular order, are:

1. Offsides

FACT: The offsides law, as it's currently being blown, will kill rugby. End of story.

Every single law that World Rugby has introduced in the past decade (maybe longer) has been done so with the aim of promoting attacking (read try-scoring) rugby: Players can take quick, 'skew' throw-ins to restart the game, loose forwards have to remain bound at scrum-time giving opposing backlines time and space, teams have the option of a scrum or lineout when a ball is knocked forward into touch. 

Etc, etc.

But allowing defending backlines to encroach, especially those players defending the blindside at ruck/scrum time, is doing everything to negate what World Rugby is trying to promote.

Trust me, no defending forward in world rugby is quick enough to charge down a scrumhalf's clearance. If it's charged down, he's cheated by starting his charge-down attempt from an offside position.

This area of play is often NOT the responsibility of the referee, but rather of his two assistants along the touchline.

And speaking of assistants, how is it that they constantly fail to alert the referee to players in front of the kicker at the start of the match and at restarts?

2. Referees who issue warnings, not penalties

For crying out loud teams WANT penalties, not warnings!

Penalties result in a possible three points - or an attacking lineout and a seven-point converted try.

Repeated 'roll away, roll away' warnings result in frustration and nothing more!

How many of these recently concluded end of year tour Tests would've seen different results had just ONE warning actually been a penalty instead? Plenty!

Referees are not there to give players 80 minutes of lessons in the law. They are there to blow the laws as laid out.

Trust me, penalising players who transgress on the very first occasion will free up the game for tries to be scored - and will bring back some fans at least to stadiums.

3. Rugby is an 80 minute game, not 100

Out-of-shape teams are currently getting away with murder, especially late in the second half, as fatigue sets and matches balloon to the 100 minute mark.

Following their recent heroic victory over the All Blacks in Dublin, Ireland's players were left strewn across the Aviva Stadium pitch as the full-time whistle sounded.

Despite making roughly the same number of tackles in the match and enjoying their fair share of territory and possession, the Irish worked the substitution laws - and on-field injuries to players - to their benefit in the second stanza.

Rugby should follow tennis' example of one injury 'time-out' per player and then an automatic substitution if you're still in pain a second time around and require medical assistance. And no player should ever be allowed to hold up a match to change a contact lens!

Referees have to become stricter with the policing of injuries - fake or not.

4. Interference chasing up-and-unders and at rucks

Officials simply have to tighten up when it comes to back-tracking defenders running obstruction lines when 'attempting' to get back to support a team-mate about to take an up-and-under.

Worst serial offender? Faf de Klerk!

The needless kicking away of possession time after time ... yawn ... after time, should actually be a category on its own.

But if an up-and-under is the route taken, and we want those contesting the kick to keep their eyes on the ball to provide for a fair contest, then forcing a player to have to change course - or face running slap-bang into the back of a side-winding retreating defending player - has to be outlawed.

Similarly at ruck time, those players who form 'pillars' - while bound with a hand (if at all) to a team-mate to give scrumhalves extra time to clear - need to be penalised as well.

Opponents need to - within the laws - (see point 1 above) - be allowed to attempt to charge down a kick, not be faced by a wall of defenders occupying space illegally.

5. Looking for ways to rule out tries

Perhaps my worst gripe of the lot.

One of the very few advantages stadiums have over your sofa at home is atmosphere.

Very little compares to jumping for joy and the deafening roar inside the venue when a referee awards a try and you high-five the fans you've never met seated around you.

But wait!

The adrenaline now coursing through your veins is sucked dry by a TMO bleating in the ear of a confused referee because he 'thinks' he may have seen something 17 phases back which could potentially - based on the opinion of sometimes one of them, sometimes both of them depending on the quality of the 'big screen' - be deemed contrary to a law no one can quote.

Much like in cricket when the umpire is forced to change his decision when a review proves his decision wrong, the poor player forced to now wait to convert the try should automatically be given the extra two points when the TMO needlessly interferes and kills the mood of those in attendance.

Fans come to watch tries being scored. The more the better. Not to have TMOs kill their joy.

Finding fault with a flat or marginally forward pass due to momentum or wind - or both - in back play with not a single defender in sight which leads to a sweeping 95-metre length of the field five-pointer and contender for Try of the Year, is just plain daft.

Once the referee awards a try, the try stands. End of story. If replays show he got it wrong - so be it. Swings and roundabouts, swings and roundabouts.


6. Owen Farrell's tackle technique

Shame on you World Rugby Referee of the Year Angus Gardner and South Africa's supposed No 1 Jaco Peyper!

Do you have any other gripes with rugby at present?

If so, jot them down in an email addressed to:

Garrin Lambley is a very frustrated rugby fan and Editor of Sport24 for his sins...

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

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