Reply to: Nick Cain / The Rugby Paper

By Enrique TOPO Rodríguez – 29/08/2013

Hi Nick,

Before I get into this subject please allow me to say a few timely words to Juliussss, I came to this box to leave a message about Nick’s excellent and very perceptive article but……

Didn’t intend to reply to you Juliussss but after reading your flippant comments I feel compelled to right your wrong because this article may influence some unsuspecting readers that are keen to learn the positives of rugby and not the negatives! – I dare say, you probably understand little about rugby and not much about the scrum.

We are on the same page and you have been very polite in suggesting that the IRB got it wrong again! Also you volunteered a simple solution to a “made complex” problem. I’m not 100% in support of your views and solutions but we both have left aside “the symptoms” of the poor scrummaging to concentrate on the etiology of the sufferings.

I’ve started to see the deterioration of the scrum at international level since 1995 (when professional rugby started) and the IRB started to utilise their army of referees as AGENTS for their administration. Since then there has been a marked emphasys on SPEED of execution of everything at all levels (COACHES) without attention to detail which is paramount in acquiring and consolidating technique.

Year after year we have seen the ever increasingly growing referees intervention in areas that have never been their domain before: a) Law making, b) On field coaching and management of players; c) Talking to TV, other match officials, players, captains; d) Coaches Education. Don’t you think they are getting a tad busy?

Now that money is not an object but the target, the game continues to get faster, stronger, more technically prepared and more intense. I’ve been saying that the physical and mental capabilities of the referees have not increased at all. So, Has anyone thought that top referees like Craig Joubert plain ans simple are NOT equipped to professionally handle the game proposed by the IRB, its marketing department, TV Executives, etc. etc.?


The Scrum Law needs to be thoroughly revised and brought into the 21st century with the conditions we have in 2013, and not 1990. A number of things need to be updated and adapted to the vision of Rugby 2020-2030

In my modest opinion, other areas need to be intervened: Give the referees more AUTHORITY and LESS work. More DISCRETION to prioritise OUTCOMES over PROCESSES. No more talking to players during play (WHY?) Tell you why: When I talk to Reds No 8, am also talking to BLUES No*, When I’m giving any instructions around the pack, 18 players hear it. So, EITHER PENALISE them or LEAVE THEM TO PLAY ON. The talk must be restricted to the two captains only (when the game is stopped). Too much show and show off for my liking!

Personally have proposed through my book The ART of SCRUMMAGING (published August 2012)  a 2 step engagement sequence: “CROUCH” and “PACK”. The 1st step is to be managed by the players themselves and when the referee is happy he/she will proceed to the 2nd step. Referees are the ONLY OBJECTIVE ONES on the field that are able to assert whether a scrum is SQUARE, STATIONERY and SAFE for play. Thus, they are the best to give the order for put in, but not an AUDIBLE one just a hand or arm gesture will do the job perfectly!

Quite conveniently all “the attention” has been on players, coaches and scrum itself. It’s about time that referees and administrators carry their fare share of responsibility in fixing this problem affecting the whole rugby family.

Thanks Nick for undoing “the lid” of this complex jar…………..tOPO




About toporod

Triple Rugby Union International (1977-1991) The ART of SCRUMMAGING - 2013 Gold Medal Winning Author - [IPPY] - 2014 Silver Medal Winner [eLit Awards] - Enthusiastic writer on Rugby and Bipolar Disorders - International Rugby Consultant and Public Speaker -
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