Q: How did the Australian soccer team
manage to win?
There were no scrums.

The Australian Rugby Union’s attitude for
years has been to hope the same rule might apply in the heavenly game, but the
northern hemisphere heavyweights (in suits) have taken the refereeing shackles
off the awesome machine that is a test scrum, reinstituting a role for the
super-heavyweights (in jock straps) in rugby.

There is a debate to be had about the
safety and desirability of the fully powered scrum – a debate that Australia
can have no voice in because we lack all credibility in the department. Without
an international standard scrum, any questioning of the machine now just sounds like the whingeing of a bunch of
losers – which is what we are.

The responses of both the ARU and the Wallaby
coach to the scum crisis increasingly indicate
the presence of headless chooks running the game. It’s gone through the usual
stages of incompetence – first ignoring there was a problem, no-one taking
responsibility for the problem when it could no longer be ignored, then blaming
everyone else for the problem, potentially sacrificing an innocent or two, and
now promising to try anything and everything in no time flat to solve it, while
there’s no change in the vital personnel who should have been dealing with it.
So it goes.

The key argument for the full scrum is that
it reinforces rugby’s claim to offer a position for all body shapes. Bless ‘em
all. Having a job that demands massive blocks of concrete also
means that a couple of times in a game, a nippy little back might be able to
find himself in front of just such an object and get a break that leads to a
try. It’s not a bad thing.

But the full scrum will break necks. When
they were breaking too many necks in junior rugby a decade and a half ago, the
Under 19 rules were changed to just take the edge off that power with great
results – catastrophic rugby scrum neck injuries in the junior ranks are now
virtually unknown.

The U19 rule changes weren’t huge, but very
effective. The crotch bind was banned, the wheel discouraged and the scrum
could only be shoved five metres. That
still creates a need for big boofy props, but you don’t break nearly as many

These safety rules are a bit like unfair
dismissal laws – they’re either good laws or not and it should make no
difference if you’re employing 99 workers or 101. Similarly, if making the
locks bind around the prop’s waist is a good idea for a 18-year-old, it’s a
good idea for a 20-year-old as well.

But the ARU is in no position to put such a
position which one day will be tragic – and I don’t mean because we’ll lose a

And there is one other rule that should be
adopted from an unlikely source – the Sydney suburban
competition. The subbies a few years back were having trouble finding enough
trained props, resulting in teams requesting uncontested scrums from the start.

To prevent abuse of that rule, or even,
say, a team with no reserve prop feigning injury to one of them if they are
getting monstered in the scrums, a rule was brought in that a scrum feed for
the team without props would result in an uncontested scrum, but what would be
a scrum feed for the fully-propped side would instead be a free kick.