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The convoluted reasoning surrounding the Scotland controversy is precisely what rugby does not require.
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The convoluted reasoning surrounding the Scotland controversy is precisely what rugby does not require.


Three victories on the first weekend of the Six Nations, followed by three more wins at home in the second round. However, the 2024 tournament has a clear trend emerging – five teams are having difficulty finding a steady pace, while Ireland stands out as a superior team, setting an example for the others to follow.

The young and talented Irish anthem singer stood out compared to the two games on Saturday, which were both lacking in overall quality. Scotland had the opportunity to defeat a sluggish France, and England would have had no right to complain if inexperienced Wales had held on at Twickenham. The lasting impression was the close margins of victory rather than the exceptional level of play.

I am noticing that this is not merely a coincidence. The sport of rugby union is struggling with defining the kind of experience it wants to offer. It was not originally meant to be a sport focused on strict rules and technicalities. Unfortunately, that seems to be the default approach now, as evidenced by the unsatisfying and uncomfortable ending to the game at Murrayfield this past weekend.

It’s understandable that Gregor Townsend was upset afterwards. Hearing the referee, Nic Berry, ultimately being convinced out of making a clearly correct decision due to a flawed protocol was disheartening and worrying. While it may have been advantageous for France – kudos to the clever colleague who came up with the nickname Nic Beret – the convoluted reasoning is exactly what rugby should avoid as it strives to attract new viewers.

Could you envision a similar scenario occurring during the Super Bowl? Where the replay of a game-deciding touchdown is shown to viewers at home and on the stadium screen, only for it to be overturned by officials due to the footage being 95% clear instead of 100% clear? In the past, the referee’s decision was considered final, but now there are too many people analyzing an excessive amount of slow-motion evidence. This leaves rugby in a difficult situation where, among other issues, even numerous high-quality cameras cannot determine if a crucial try has been made.

Is it possible to make a close call in any time period? Perhaps, but it is time to step back and consider the impact of technology on unnecessarily complicating the sport. If technology cannot provide a definite answer, why should we be constrained by it? What happened to relying on the most likely outcome, instead of requiring “conclusive evidence”? And is it not clear enough when a ball clearly hits a French player’s leg and lands on the grass? If something appears to be a certain way, it usually is. However, in striving for an impossible level of proof, the officials made a mess of it.

There is similar uncertainty in other aspects of the game. We witnessed a tall and large lock forward, specifically England’s Ollie Chessum, being penalized and sent to the sin-bin for a tackle that, when viewed in real time and considering its moderate force, did not seem to be a serious offense. However, when the footage was slowed down and paused at the moment of head impact, it appeared much more severe. This led to the play being reviewed again in the bunker. While everyone desires a safer game and a decrease in high tackles, common sense must also be considered in the decision-making process.

Wales's Mason Grady in the sin bin during the match against England for a deliberate knock on.View image in fullscreen

Later in the game, Wales was leading when Mason Grady received a yellow card for intentionally knocking the ball at a crucial moment. The Welsh replacement player had very little time to react to the ball after Henry Slade chose to let it slide across his chest. Despite this, the strict and inflexible nature of rugby led referee James Doleman to issue a yellow card after slow-motion replays showed that there was slight contact with the ball.

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Summing everything up, the situation in rugby is precarious. Players are constantly walking a fine line, while referees are faced with impossible decisions. The outcome of games is often determined by tiny fractions that are difficult to decipher even for those watching at home, let alone those in a crowded stadium 100 meters away. This leads to doubt, frustration, and accusations of inconsistency. In light of Scotland’s near-victory, should every try now be scrutinized in minute detail? For example, was Elliot Daly’s pass to Fraser Dingwall actually forward? And does George Ford’s slight adjustment of his feet before taking a penalty kick really count as the start of his run-up? Is modern rugby too focused on minor details rather than the bigger picture?

Where does it end? A Martian visitor might question why the repeated head-down charges towards the try line by human battering rams are considered acceptable for the players’ well-being, while a simple seatbelt tackle is not. Why do scrum resets consume so much valuable time? Why does the sport seem to revolve around two teams constantly arguing over legal matters?

Many individuals are becoming increasingly frustrated with the current state of affairs in the Six Nations, and it is likely to have a negative impact on the sport. As seen in a post by Ronan O’Gara on social media, the influence of officials in rugby is significant and there are numerous rules and laws that can be confusing. O’Gara, who is deeply passionate about the sport and has extensive knowledge, believes that a reassessment may be necessary. It would be prudent for those in charge to take heed of his insights.

Source: theguardian.com