This week I was on Brian Moore’s podcast. I always enjoy seeing Brian and talking about what’s currently happening in Rugby. It was good to chat about how teams achieve consistency, how some clubs are really developing British coaches brilliantly, and then the highlight for me, the discussion with one of the best referees in the history of the game, Nigel Owens.
The debate with Nigel was around the breakdown. Nigel talked very clearly about the current ‘interpretation’ of the laws. I didn’t agree, but that’s ok; we had a measured discussion, and that’s really healthy, and it was great Nigel spoke so clearly about why some laws that I believe are being regularly broken, within their current interpretation, are deemed not to be by the referees.
Listen to this debate on Brian Moore’s podcast, with the podcast in full at the bottom of this article.
The crocodile roll. What’s all the fuss about?
The crocodile, or judo roll, is deemed legal by officials at the moment as the very first action – getting above or below the defender (or attacker) – is seen as legal. Therefore, anything that happens after that, i.e. the deliberate collapsing of a ruck or deliberately coming off your feet, is seen as a consequence but not illegal, so goes unpunished.
I understand this process of thinking but vehemently disagree with it. It’s also flawed and creating a lesser and, in my honest opinion, a far more dangerous game. For example, apply this same line of thinking to the tackle. If you do then a spear tackle would rarely be penalised because the very first action of the tackle could very well be legal.
This video is one of Rugby World magazine’s mini rugby videos coaching the crocodile roll technique. This is all a massive problem in our game and this is not the first time this technique has been condemned or discussed (read the threads on the Rugby Refs website and a Twitter conversation I joined, both initiated over two years ago).
We are the only global team sport that has a law book that really isn’t that at all. It gets interpreted differently at different times. The croc roll I’m taking about was interpreted differently a few years ago, and now the law hasn’t changed, but the interpretation has.
How are we suppose to develop the game and bring new players, new coaches, and new fans into the sport if our laws are so grey? Furthermore, who is actually deciding what and how something is interpreted? Any chance of actually having some foresight and planning around the game?
The way the breakdown has been interpreted is leading to:
- More players on the floor than on their feet.
- Brute strength and power allowing a team to keep the ball rather than guile and skill and technical ability.
- More collisions as a result, and thus more injuries.
- It’s so much harder for an official to referee with bodies everywhere. Other infringements will get missed.
Those are four pretty big reasons to do something about this. But how is that going to happen? A serious injury of a star player? No one wants that but that looks like it is the only way World Rugby will even consider making any change.
Here’s a clip of James Horwill’s injury as an example of the type of clean out (crocodile roll) I’m talking about.
We need to do something about this now.
High profile coaches and players please speak out. Players at all levels, write on this thread if you have been injured by a croc or judo roll.
The roll is not just the point of me saying all of this. It’s the thin end of the wedge. If this continues to be allowed to happen then in five years time, or less, we will have a game none of us fell in love with; players broken, parents pointing their kids to other sports, and fans switching off because the laws just create confusion and banality.
Brian Moore’s Rugby Podcast with Ben Ryan.
Brian and I discuss the big talking points in the Premiership, and get stuck into a debate with referee Nigel Owens about judo (or crocodile) rolling at the breakdown (debate with Nigel starts at 40:32 on podcast).