Call goes up to 'bring back the ruck' in England

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    13 Jan 2018     Getty Images

Former England Test halfback Austin Healey said in his Daily Telegraph column that the breakdown had become 'an unholy mess'.

Healey said any breakdown had enough examples and said a frame-by- frame analysis of a breakdown would provide at least three players committing penalty offences.

"I often hear referees talk about players 'painting a picture' at a ruck, which is basically code for pretending to be following the laws. It's condoned cheating," he said.

Healey said he had sympathy for referees.

"They are in an impossible position. If every player at the ruck is cheating then who do you choose to penalise? Yet when they make their decision. You can also understand why the penalised team are angry that they, rather than the equally-culpable opposition, are punished," he said.

The first offender was invariably the tackler at the breakdown.

"In previous years as the tackler you would want to finish on top of the ball-carrier so you could get straight back to your feet and compete for the ball.

"However, the laws now state that the tackler must completely release the ball-carrier and come back through the gate before competing for the ball, which is virtually impossible. So now it is more of an advantage to be underneath the ball-carrier. This allows you to slow the ball down by holding the ball-carrier's arm into his body to prevent him presenting the ball long," he said.

Healey said he was convinced that it was impossible to clear out a player who has got over the ball in full accordance with the laws.

Healey said World Rugby had an image of what they thought the ruck should look like on their web site and you had to ask yourself the last time you had seen that happen in a game.

He outlined other examples and said they all occurred at nearly every ruck.

"So what is to be done?" he asked.

"Simple: bring back rucking. Remove the lottery and allow players to self-police the ruck. Players will very quickly learn that there are real consequences to lying on the wrong side of a ruck.

"There will be some psychopaths who are prepared to take a slice of shoe-pie for trying to slow the ball down but that is their choice.

"I know people are squeamish about the use of boots but I truly believe that it would make the game safer in the long term. It would also paint a much clearer picture for the referees," he said.