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Opinion: Rugby laws must be changed

Photo by Thomas Lyster

Ireland vs Italy was a forgettable game. However, if anyone was watching Rugby for the first time and they did not know anything about the game last Sunday at the Aviva Stadium they would rightly be baffled about what happened twenty minutes into the first half.

Italy were reduced to 14 men after Hooker Hame Faivia was sent off for a high tackle on Irish hooker Dan Sheehan. A hooker in Rugby is someone who throws the ball into the line out. The Georgian referee Nika Amashukeli had little option due to the current World Rugby framework around high tackles. This was not the end, though, as Italy had to drop down to 13 men and the scrums went uncontested.

This was due to an Italian hooker being sent off and then his replacement coming on and then going off injured. I have been watching Rugby for over 15 years and I never knew such a law existed but it is there to prevent teams from faking injuries and going to uncontested scrums if they are struggling in the scrum.

The Georgian referee Amashukeli who was only 27 years of age and his was his first Six Nations match was put in a very difficult situation. By the letter of the law, he made the right call as the Italians did not have a hooker but Italy were reduced to 13 men in the first half and it ended the game as a serious contest. Imagine if you were one of the spectators who forked out 80 euros to watch the game last Sunday you would not be happy to witness what just happened. The laws can be explained here on the World Rugby website. According to World Rugby from an article published in Rugby World: “If a front-row player is sent off, and the team cannot continue with contested scrums with players already on the field, then the team nominates another player to leave the playing area to enable an available front-row player to come on. The nominated player may act as a replacement.”

The scrums going uncontested did not suit Ireland either because it meant that they missed out on contested scrums that would have battle-hardened them for England next week in Twickenham.

Rugby has a habit of being very traditional and conservative with its lawmaking. The sport is still trying to grow and for that to be successful, they need to scrap this obscure scrum law because if it was a bigger team than Italy that was playing on Sunday there would have been uproar. It could also put off a lot of newcomers to the game that Rugby desperately needs. It also, unfortunately, fuels the argument again that Italy is not refereed fairly or given the same latitude compared to other nations.

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