Jake: ‘No conspiracy’ over new scrum law

Jake White says critics of World Rugby’s law change to limit the number of scrums in a match are “naive” over its impact at an amateur and schools level.

World Rugby on Thursday announced that the governing body has approved a series of law amendments, effective 1 July 2024. targeting key areas such as offside from kicks, free-kick options, and player welfare concerns.

POLL: Is it rugby without the scrums?

Among the new laws is that teams will no longer have the option to choose a scrum from a free-kick, emphasising the imperative of keeping the ball in motion.

The change has been interpreted as an attempt to limit the influence of scrums in the international game, especially as it comes after the Springboks used the set-piece as a weapon to successfully defend their World Cup title.

Critics have also suggested that teams with a weaker pack will be encouraged to employ tactics – such as pre-engaging – to give away a free-kick that has to be tapped or kicked, rather than scrum and potentially concede a penalty.

However, when asked about the change towards the end of a press conference of Friday, Bulls director of rugby White gave an opposing view.

“I know there are conspiracy theories about why that happened, because certain teams have strong scrums. I want to explain that the laws of rugby are made for schoolkids. They are not made for professionals,” White said.

“People who read into it are being naive. As an example, you used to have what was called a squeezeball, where a player used to go on all fours and push the ball through his legs. It was a big thing before they cancelled it.

“Schoolkids see it and they copy what they see Lawrence Dallaglio doing or Malcolm Marx doing. Those guys are men with strong necks. If you get a kid doing it, someone lands on him and he is now paralyzed. Then parents don’t want their kids to play rugby.

“If you put it in that context, if you limit the number of scrums, you will get more kids to play rugby. Nobody is saying the scrum should be depowered. Let’s be fair, scrumming in schools rugby is limited to pushing 1,5 metres.

“All I’m saying is that there’s no conspiracy,” the former Bok coach added. “The lawmakers will have to work out how many free kicks they give now at scrum time [before awarding a penalty] because there will be a lot more playing around. Coaches are like that. Sometimes giving away a free kick is better than to defend a scrum.

“What I am stressing to the people out there, is that the laws of the game are out there to make more people play and to make it safer. It’s got nothing to do with some teams not wanting to scrum.

“I don’t read anything into it. I don’t believe the powerhouse scrum teams are disadvantaged. A free kick can still become a penalty. Then you give yardage away. Who knows, maybe scrumming will improve?

Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

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