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two teams contest a scrum

Calls for World Rugby to re-evaluate uncontested scrum law after Ireland pummel Italy

There have been calls for World Rugby to re-evaluate the uncontested scrum law which reduced Italy to 13 men against Ireland on Sunday, with less than 20 minutes played in their Six Nations match.

The drama unfolded when hooker Hame Faiva was sent off for a high tackle, 10 minutes after he replaced the injured Gianmarco Lucchesi.

Toa Halafihi was quickly brought on after the red card was administered to reshuffle the pack, but referee Nika Amashukeli denied the number eight access to the field, confusing vast swathes of the Aviva Stadium crowd.

And the reasoning behind the call was far from simple.

Only a viable hooker could fill the void created by the sending off but, as no one on the Italian bench fulfilled this criterion, uncontested scrums had to be introduced.

Captain Michele Lamaro was then told by the referee that his team would be playing the remainder of the match with 13 men as a forfeit for having no suitable front row replacement.

With that, any hope of Italy giving Ireland a stern test instantly dissipated, and they went on to lose 57-6.

Admittedly, the Azzurri were not in prizewinning form heading into Dublin, riding an unwanted 34-game winless run, but even so, they would have put in a better showing with 14 men rather than 13.

It is important to point out though that none of this was the referee’s fault.

He followed the law set out by World Rugby, which was brought in to prevent front rowers faking injuries that would exploit uncontested scrums.

Before the rule was introduced, a hooker could feign discomfort and be replaced by a fitter player, giving that team more dynamism in defence.

The unfair advantage gained through this type of duplicity was worth stopping, but the law changes were introduced to protect a side like Italy, not force them into a physical contest which they were destined to lose.

Clearly World Rugby failed in their aims, especially as the visitors were doing rather well before the red card was administered, trailing Ireland by only four points.

That is why there has been an almost unanimous call for the law to be changed, led by the managers of both teams involved last weekend.

“We cannot blame the referee at all, he’s followed the rules,” Italian head coach Kieran Crowley wrote on Twitter. “Are they right? Well that’s for World Rugby to decide.”

Ireland head coach Andy Farrell echoed this when analysing the way in which the game unfolded.

“We understand why the rule was brought in but at the same time it’ll bring the rule back to everyone’s attention and they’ll [World Rugby] look at it,” he said.

“Rightly, Italy were trying to slow the game down, it’s what everyone would have done.”

The farcical events which unfolded in Dublin became even more ludicrous in the final five minutes, when flanker Braam Steyn was sin binned, reducing Italy to 12 on-field players.

Of course, there was only Steyn to blame here, but it further highlighted the stupidity of the uncontested scrum law administered earlier.

It now falls on World Rugby to makes the necessary changes, with the eyes of the Six Nations watching on.

You can check out all of SWL’s Six Nations coverage here.

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