A burgeoning tournament for Pacific Ocean A sides includes scrums that maintain front-row contact between the 'touch' and 'set' phases, as the International Rugby Board seeks to remedy serial setpiece collapses.
After referees call touch, props permanently bind their outside arms on one another, theoretically reducing the distance and speed the two packs travel. The approach got started in this past weekend's opening leg of the Pacific Rugby Cup, comprising the second strings for Fiji, Japan, Samoa, and Tonga as well as reserve-grade teams for the Australian and New Zealand Super Rugby franchises.
Now primarily played in the Antipodes, thereby creating a sturdier economic footing, the 6-week, 27-match competition contrasts with the 10-day, 6-game Americas Rugby Championship. While both the PNC and ARC launched in 2006, the former has become a vigorous development competition, and the latter a tepid reprisal of the old Pan American Championship, little more than warmup games for the November international window.
As developing countries have all but abandoned arranging international and 'cross border' competition for themselves, improving on IRB-directed tournaments has become a primary measure of a union's effectiveness. Put another way: What opportunities are Boulder, Richmond Hill [Toronto], and the like creating for elite players that did not exist 5, 10, or 15 years ago?
Infamously, in 2009 Canada expanded its ARC representation to four teams from two, while America saw its share reduced to just one. In 2013, the PNC's expansion to Melbourne and the addition of Japan complements the scrum trial.
For nearly 100 years, forwards around the world managed their own engagements. However sensible the experiment may prove, the current woes were begat by the IRB itself, which in 2007 mandated the now-discarded crouch-touch-pause-engage sequence. As safety measures go, Dublin's efforts to reduce dangerous tackles and concussions have been more productive, with fewer unintended consequences.
'[The trial does] not quite end... the crouch, touch, set nonsense that tends to lead to early engagements or collapses, a free-kick or a penalty, but [goes] some way towards it', London's Guardian opined.
A Salt Lake City-area newspaper and TV station will narrowcast Brigham Young's home matches, the school announced last week. The tie-up is evidence of rugby moving into conventional media at the ground level.
The United States has drawn New Zealand, Canada, and Georgia at the 7s world championship this July in Russia. With the abbreviated game's joining the 2016 Summer Games, the tournament had been declared the last of a six such events; however, with only 12 teams to qualify for Rio de Janeiro, fully half of the 24 World Cup qualifiers will be left out, prompting the IRB to indicate it may reconsider.