SCRUM LAWS 'FRUSTRATING'
THE new Premiership scrum laws are now in full force – but Gloucester fear they could have no effect at all.
The International Rugby Board's global scrum trial starts in the Premiership this weekend.
Gloucester boss Nigel Davies has branded the revised set-piece contest "just as frustrating as ever".
The new refereeing scrum call sequence "crouch, bind, set" will be employed when Gloucester host Sale Sharks at Kingsholm (kick-off 3pm).
Traditional Shave, Facial Treatment, Whisky and a Shoe Shine -...View details
Gents, enjoy a traditional shave, facial treatment, glass of whisky and a shoeshine for £31
Terms: Early and later appointments available upon request.
Contact: 01242 504887
Valid until: Tuesday, December 31 2013
The idea is to reduce the impact of the "hit" by 25 per cent, with props tasked to bind with their outside arm before packing down. But coaches across the league hold safety, consistency and refereeing concerns about the changes, Gloucester included.
Last season the hit entirely dominated the scrum contest: win the hit, win the scrum a reasonable summary.
After spending all summer training his squad for the new guidelines, Davies admits to concerns as to whether they will be properly policed.
The Citizen understands Gloucester have spent time this week training their scrum to last season's parameters.
The Cherry and Whites anticipate opponents aiming to gain as much of a hit as possible, flying in the face of the new rules.
So if referees fail to crack down on activity outside the laws, Davies wants his men to be ready.
He explained: "We've just got to be as adaptable as we can be, and react to what's happening on the field.
"One thing that really frustrates at the moment is with the new interpretations of the laws, really there's no hit anymore, there's no advantage on engaging early.
"Against Scarlets last week both teams were penalised for marginal early engagement.
"That's ridiculous because there's no advantage in an early engagement anymore because the scrum has to be stationary.
"So that should be taken away from it, and we shouldn't be penalising the scrum for that. It's just a nonsense.
"So these are some of the things we're all coming to terms with at the moment.
"There's a lot for the referees to get comfortable with as well, it's not easy for them and they're probably a lot more anxious than anyone.
"But the one thing we shouldn't do is penalise marginal early engagements, because it's irrelevant at this moment in time if the scrum has got to be steady and square.
"Against a dominant scrum there potentially could be safety problems, but we're yet to see what a dominant scrum looks like in these laws, because we still can't get to that point. And that's the frustration.
"In theory the one thing that should happen, if you strike the ball, even under a bit of pressure, is that you should get the ball away cleanly.
"But as I say, we're not even getting to that point right now.
"So it's as frustrating as ever, to be honest."
New lineout boss James Hudson is Gloucester's only injury absentee today.
Davies wants his speed-packed line-up to threaten from set-piece strike ball, hence his frustrations with the scrum.
He continued: "The scrum is definitely one of the best sources of attacking possession.
"At the lineout these days, there's a lot of line speed and skulduggery in terms of offside, so by the time the attacking 10 gets the ball he's got people on top of him.
"That seems to be being ignored, too.
"You just have to deal with that, but we're all hoping the scrum will allow a fair contest, but also an opportunity to be able to play off it.
"Everyone wants the situation where you've still got half your team with their heads down and their bottoms up.
"Between the laws, the interpretations, the referees, there's so much room for discrepancy.
"We can all see the potential and we are all supportive of it, but this is a professional game, the whole business has to be professional.
"You can't have an interpretation of a law that isn't clear, particularly across the people who are adjudicating it."
GLOUCESTER: R Cook, C Sharples, H Trinder, B Twelvetrees, J Simpson-Daniel, F Burns, D Robson, N Wood, D Dawidiuk, R Harden, T Savage (capt), L Lokotui, S Kalamafoni, M Kvesic, B Morgan. Replacements: D George, D Murphy, Y Thomas, E Stooke, A Qera, T Knoyle, M Tindall, M Thomas.
SALE SHARKS: T Arscott, P McKenzie, A Forsyth, J Leota, M Cueto, N Macleod, D Peel, E Lewis Roberts, M Jones, H Thomas, J Mills, M Paterson, D Braid (capt), D Seymour, J Gaskell. Replacements: T Taylor, R Harrison, V Cobilas, K Kulemin, J Beaumont, W Cliff, J Ford, R Miller.