‘Whistleblower’ is David Matthews, a long serving honorary

life member of the club .

He was President of Lancashire County RFU for 2014/2015

He enjoyed twenty years on the RFU Referee List, including two seasons on the International Panel between 1992-94. This also comprised Assistant Referee duties and work as Television Match Official for eleven years

 to 2012.

Deliberate knock-on should be removed from Law

David Matthews proposes a radical change

When the game between Italy and England opened the 2018 Six Nations Championship rumours abounded that the hosts were poised to unleash another example of how the Laws could be manipulated to completely baffle the opposition in preventing a normal game from  taking place. You will remember in 2017, not with very much affection if you were Eddie Jones, that Italy totally bamboozled England by not committing any players to the breakdown following a tackle, so rendering the ruck non-existent and allowing the Italy defence to wander around all over the place. The Twickenham crowd was as stunned as the players and a clearly frustrated Eddie Jones announced that “ it was not  rugby.” By this season the law had been changed.

As a warm up for my shock alteration to the Laws here come two proposals which, though difficult to implement, drive me round the twist: the first is the ‘box kick’ from the base of a ruck or scrum. Beloved by the commentators, who consider England scrum-half Danny Care to be one of the greatest exponents, the kick always finishes in the hands of the opposition who weigh up the situation before returning it with interest  or if bold enough, launch a counter attack. In the worst examples a kicking duel of the old style develops. Have you noticed also how, when a game of attrition takes place like England v Wales, the pundits always refer to it as an old fashioned contest? Go back to the 1970’s and this was the normal fare on offer. It makes you wonder how we paid good money to watch it.

Next in line for the axe comes the tedious, obsessive practice of choosing to kick a penalty to touch, awarded to the side on the attack within about twenty metres of the opposition try line, often as close as five metres. The anticipated sequence is, line out-catch-drive-score, or if you are Leicester, playing at Welford Road, add to that, throw not straight-scrum-collapse-penalty try. The East Midlanders have made this an art form for home supporters and do have a fair record of tries awarded by using it ad nauseam, but I would like to know the success rate from all the teams who slavishly follow this repetitive ploy. The solution? Ban it.

And now to a very controversial suggestion - the deliberate knock-on; why not remove it from the Law book altogether? It has become a crime to rank with the most heinous offences imaginable, but is it really so bad? Whilst there is an element of poor timing involved in a pass which goes astray there must be some skill on the part of a defender to get anywhere near the ball in the first place. If he succeeds in catching it he is lauded for reading the situation perfectly, should he knock it to the ground, he is almost certainly in line for a yellow card. Johnny May, playing for Leicester, has the distinction of two yellow for allegedly knocking the ball down twice in separate incidents, to leave the Tigers with fourteen players. I get the impression that certain referees gain maximum pleasure from catching this offence, especially if they can stretch it to a yellow card and penalty try.

Critics of Rugby League, with some justification, claim its principle failing is the predictable nature of play. Well, here are three fundamental weaknesses in Rugby Union. Chances of any change?  Nil.

DWM 21/2/2018 (11)

Archive Whistleblower