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Rugby rules complicated enough without bringing in new changes – Hamish MacPherson

WITH so many players having an off day and with far too many errors, Scotland were lucky to come second on Saturday. France are officially now No. 3 in the World Rugby rankings, though I think they are the world’s best at the moment, while Scotland have slipped badly to No. 8 and the gulf between us was displayed at Murrayfield.

France were at their imperious best and as I wrote last week, if Gregor Alldritt and Antoine Dupont could play their inspirational roles, Scotland would struggle. They were brilliant, we struggled, and frankly the scoreline did not flatter France. Romain Ntamack’s kick off straight into touch and Jaminet’s fluffed early penalty were about the only mistakes they made while Scottish indiscipline and errors assisted them greatly.   

I fancied Stuart Hogg to deliver a big performance. Oops. And as for Finn Russell, the French had him in their pockets. I have thought him out of top form in recent weeks and I hope Gregor Townsend gives Blair Kinghorn a start at No 10 as he will need the experience.

That’s because this Six Nations is over for us and we need to be looking at next year’s World Cup and ringing the changes that may have to be made before September 10, 2023, when our first Pool B game against South Africa takes place in Marseille. Realistically we should be planning everything for our last Pool B game – surely we won’t be beaten by the Asia/Pacific 1 and Europe 2 qualifiers – against Ireland in Paris on October 7 next year. It’s already time to prepare for next year.

My overall impression of the Guinness 6 Nations of 2022 is not to do with dodgy refereeing, though there’s been a good whack of it, and even less to do with the biggest bugbear of most people at the moment, namely the loss of time and action due to scrums taking so long, but the fact that the laws of rugby have now become so complicated that even students of the game are failing to follow the many convolutions caused by the laws themselves.

It’s the ever-changing laws which are the real pain of rugby at the moment. I get the need for a brake foot in the new scrum law, but I am particularly peeved  at the 50-22 change and the lunacy of the goal line drop out. The latter is a lulu, and really needs to be looked at again.

As I understand it, the new law sees a defensive team being rewarded with a goal-line dropout whenever they have held the opposition up over their line, rather than the previous five metre scrum to the attacking team. Fair enough, and I am all for anything that avoids a scrum, but in effect that change penalises the team which has been on the attack and has managed to get over their opponents’ line. How can that be fair?

As I read it the law states that if the ball is touched down by defenders or becomes unplayable after the attacking side has kicked, carried or knocked it forwards into the in-goal area, play must now restart with a goal-line drop out. The 22 drop out is retained for when the attacking side kicks the ball dead, and for the restart after a penalty attempt or missed drop goal is touched down by the defending team, but the goal-line drop out will, I predict, become far more prevalent and players will need to adapt to it.  

You may argue that it’s only the loss of 22 metres on the drop out, but it is rewarding the team that made the mistake in the first place, as they will be so much nearer their opponents’ line. That can’t be right, surely.

One of the first such goal line drop outs in France saw Camille Lopez of Clermont clear the ball up to the 40 metre line where Castres’ full back Julien Dumora fielded the ball, said ‘merci beaucoup’,  and hoofed it straight back over the Clermont bar for a drop goal. I am sure we’ll see plenty more such drop goal attempts if this daft law continues.

As for the 50-22 change in which a player kicks from his own half and finds touch inside his or her opponent’s 22, the ball bouncing before it crosses the touch line, again that goes against the spirit of the game because the whole idea of rugby is to keep the ball on the pitch as much as possible. Giving the throw in at the resulting line-out to the team which has kicked the ball out of play seems to me to be unfair, no matter how much skill is displayed in achieving the 50-22.

It’s an idea borrowed from rugby league’s 40-20 law and that says it all for me. We don’t need ‘foreign’ laws when rugby union’s laws are complicated enough.

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