It’s time to shut up about scrums and let refs and players get on with it, says Chiefs' Rob Baxter

Law changes will need time to bed in before any further tinkering, says Exeter coach

If it was up to Rob Baxter, the Exeter Chiefs coach, who was seconded to England to work with their forwards during the summer, the debate over the scrummage and how it is refereed would go stony silent for a few months.

Among several points Baxter made after his team’s somewhat humbling 38-11 opening-day Premiership loss away to last year’s runners-up Northampton, was that too much tinkering in recent seasons had helped bring the lawmakers to this season’s further tinkering.

But his hope that the on-trial engagement of “crouch, bind, set”, straight feed and so on should be given time to bed in without further commentary is about as likely to be fulfilled as Vladimir Putin cosying up to Barack Obama and saying: “This Syria thing, let’s just forget about it, shall we?”

It should be noted – given Baxter’s complaint that his and other coaches’ arguments have been misquoted – that he would have preferred not to talk about the scrum at all, and that Northampton’s powerful victory by five tries to one had many other merits worth discussing. Such as building a lead and then knowing when to concede penalties, as when Saints’ England forwards Phil Dowson and Courtney Lawes were sent to the sin bin for halting Exeter attacks.

Having been gently cajoled on the scrum, however, Baxter said: “At the end of last season scrums were producing some pretty good ball. There were some bloody good games of rugby being played. We had referees who were just about getting experienced at the way the scrum was going.

“And don’t forget, in the last two seasons there’s been directives on: if a loosehead puts his hand on the floor, that should be an immediate free-kick or penalty; then they decided, oh, that wasn’t right because that allows the tighthead just to drive at the loosehead more; then it was the tighthead binding on the arm, that should be an immediate penalty. Referees are getting all these signals and messages, tinkering around with the scrum. Now we’re going to have to wait for these guys to get experienced again. Let’s let them get their experience of refereeing it, and in three or four months’ time if it’s still a bit messy, then we can start to say is it working or isn’t it.”

Dylan Hartley, the Northampton captain, who ran himself sore in his first match for 15 weeks since his ruinous sending-off in May’s Premiership final, said with a smile: “I hooked the ball – I’m now a proper hooker. It was still competitive. We got a couple of double shunts on when we wanted to; they got a couple on us. I was happy with it.”

A minority of the scrums produced ball for the backs; from one the Exeter scrum-half Haydn Thomas attempted optimistically to chip the giant wing George North – one of four new Northampton signings, including the England prop Alex Corbisiero, who all had a comfortable introduction as the England coaches Stuart Lancaster and Graham Rowntree watched on. North was the biter bit with a raid infield from a scrum that was easily read and turned over. The new availability of the television match official was utilised for two tries, even if a technical hitch meant no pictures were available to the crowd.

“A competitive scrum will have resets,” said Baxter. “A competitive scrum will have penalties. A competitive scrum will create loose ball coming out the back. We need to learn to live with it – that’s what a scrum is going to be about. [Otherwise] we may as well just completely do away with the scrum – which feels to me a bit like what everyone’s trying to do, so we have to be really careful.”

Northampton: B Foden; K Pisi (J Elliott 70), G Pisi (J Wilson 60), L Burrell, G North; S Myler, L Dickson (K Fotuali’i 56); A Corbisiero (A Waller 60), D Hartley (capt; M Haywood 58), T Mercey (G Denman 60), C Lawes (S Manoa 56), C Day, T Wood (C Clark 58), P Dowson, S Dickinson. Exeter: P Dollman; M Jess, I Whitten, J Shoemark (S Hill 56), T James; G Steenson (H Slade 51), H Thomas (D Lewis 56); B Sturgess (B Moon 54), J Yeandle (C Whitehead 54), H Tui (C Rimmer 54), D Mumm (capt; T Hayes 6-15), D Welch (Hayes 66), T Johnson, J Scaysbrook (B White 51), D Ewers. Referee: J P Doyle (London).

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter make a mad 320-metre, 75-step dash to work
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK edition of wedding show forced to recast after wave of drop-outs
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Top conservatoire offers ‘groundbreaking’ arts degree

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week