Sports Letters: Why the law on rucking is an ass

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The Independent Online
Sir: The number of penalty kicks which punctuated last Saturday's Calcutta Cup match (22, equating to about one every 3.5 minutes) is a sad reflection on the complexity of the rules in modern rugby union. That one final, rather dubious, refereeing decision robbing Scotland of a fully deserved victory was unfortunate, but perhaps not so surprising when one considers that a high percentage of the punishable indiscretions appeared to arise from rucking situations or loose play.

It appears that the present laws concerning the ruck are sufficiently ill-defined to have warranted a preliminary meeting between Jim Telfer, the Scottish Rugby Union's director of rugby, and the match referee, Lindsay McLachlan, before the match.

This implies either that certain aspects of the game require clarification or that each referee applies his own idiosyncratic interpretation. If this is the case then it is hardly surprising that so many infringements result from loose play if players have to adapt their game to each referee's standards.

So I ask myself the simple question 'When is a ruck a ruck?'. The honest answer is that I am now as confused as ever. For a ruck to occur does the ball have to make contact with the ground as opposed to it resting on a pile of prostrate bodies? Perhaps now is the time for the game's governing body to go 'back to basics' and attempt to resolve the present inconsistencies which may influence a referee's decision.

Yours sincerely,


Hardwick, Cambridge.