Rob Baxter, the head coach of Exeter, is advocating for scrums in rugby to be more authentic in order to increase excitement.
Rob Baxter, the director of rugby for Exeter, suggests that the focus in rugby should be on making scrums a real competition in order to make the game more thrilling for viewers and potentially improving England’s chances at the Rugby World Cup.
The previous second-row player for the Chiefs, who has achieved two Premiership titles and a Champions Cup during their time at the club, believes that prioritizing a physical scrummaging competition – an aspect of the game that is not typically seen as the most appealing by some – will result in more opportunities for the backs to score tries.
Baxter stated on Thursday that if Premiership teams do not make an effort to reach the scrum contest, then it is unjustifiable for us to criticize set pieces at World Cups. He made these comments before the Chiefs’ upcoming game against Newcastle on Sunday.
In the past, it was common for scrum contests to be avoided. The intention of a scrum is to have both forward packs, consisting of 16 players, engage in a genuine pushing competition. This can be physically exhausting for larger forwards. The purpose of a scrum is to tire out the opposing team, allowing the other players to have more energy to run and score points. Unfortunately, this aspect of the game has been lost.
England has faced challenges with the scrum in recent World Cups, resulting in losses to South Africa in 2019 and this year. During the 2019 tournament in Japan, the Springboks’ “Bomb Squad” proved to be superior, and in the semi-final match against Paris last month, England’s scrum faltered in the last quarter.
Baxter, whose team holds the third position in the Premiership with four wins out of six games, states that referees should be cautious of teams trying to gain an advantage by avoiding scrums. He also cautions against implementing any more changes to the rules.
Baxter explained that in the Premiership, a scrum can end in just three seconds if a player dives on the floor, an early engagement is called, or a clever tactic is used. This results in all sixteen players being fully engaged with no fatigue involved.
“We at Exeter are focusing on the fundamental aspect of the game. By prioritizing the scrum contest, we can unlock the potential of other elements. If we collectively prioritize the scrum in all aspects of the game – including TV, refereeing, and coaching – it has the potential to greatly impact the game.”
When asked about a law he would alter, Baxter proposed a new rule: for the next decade, there will be no modifications to the laws of rugby union. He expressed frustration with constantly discussing changes to the laws.