This rant, asking for an end to players launching off their feet at the ruck, first appeared in the April 2014 edition of Rugby World
HAVE YOU ever tried to get insurance to play rugby in another country? It is often classed as an extreme sport. Insuring the game is risky because the game is, well, inherently risky. In so many facets of rugby you can hurt yourself, which is all the more harrowing when people laud the ‘physicality’ of a player launching into a ruck.
The no-arms, reckless dive at ruck time is becoming one of rugby’s ugliest areas but as well as being potentially dangerous, the killing of the ball from players who do not stay on their feet is slowing down the whole spectacle.
Without officials heavily penalising teams for slamming in and falling off their feet the chances of getting a serious injury will always be higher. For too long this has gone on.
The All Blacks, South Africa, England and Ireland. All of these Test sides excel at the post-tackle collision. Some players gleefully pick up their pace when there is a free shot on offer. Not often enough will we hear the whistle when a player slams into a ruck and topples over it like a top-heavy toddler.
It is not softness to want this to change. It is illegal to come off your feet at the ruck according to law 16.3 (c). And what is worse, this risky, illegal action is seen in every game. It’s an action gruffer players get praise for. Role models from the Aviva Premiership to the Rugby Championship fly in and fall, and as long as an opposition player doesn’t have a collapsed lung or a case of whiplash, we clap.
This is not an issue like the scrum, where there is only so much tinkering one can do before we amend laws. This comes down to directives from officials. This comes down to everyone – fans, coaches, pundits – supporting a culture where we scald those who are more concerned with taking a huge run-up to smash an opponent than maintaining balance or actually using their arms or trying to drive.
It’s also worth pointing out that if we support a culture where there are not layers of bodies at the breakdown, there may actually be cleaner ball for nines. There may actually be quicker play.
Surely we would all prefer the use of such ball to players butting and falling down, like rams on rollerblades?