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You won't be hearing the 'yes, nine' call in this weekend's Heineken Cup

The IRB has made a greatly welcome alteration to the scrum-related protocol.

Image: ©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

THIS WEEKEND’S HEINEKEN Cup action, and all northern hemisphere rugby from now on, will not feature referees using the “yes, nine” call at scrum time to signal to the scrum-half to put the ball in.

The International Rugby Board [IRB] made the welcome announcement yesterday that the protocol will be dropped with immediate effect, a move that has been greeted with relief by many supporters, players and coaches.

It was felt that the “yes, nine” call had been giving an advantage to the defending team at the scrum, providing them with an ideal cue to begin their shove against the head. The fact that the referee’s vocal signal meant the attacking hooker lifting his leg to hook the ball had resulted in the defensive team often being in a better position from which to drive.

After a review of the protocol, the IRB has instead decided that referees will use “a non-verbal communication to scrum-halves for the introduction of the ball” once the scrum is steady. That communication seems likely to be in the form of a pat on the back, although the IRB has not publicly suggested any particular signal.

The IRB has highlighted that “it is up to individual Unions to decide whether this change will be adopted at levels below elite Rugby.” However, it seems unlikely that any rugby unions will continue with the largely unsuccessful “yes, nine” calling system in the amateur game.

This revision looks to be an intelligent move by the IRB, and one this writer certainly felt was greatly needed. Taking the advantage away from the attacking side at the scrum was never a good idea, and it is relieving to see world rugby’s governing body act react to the failed experiment mid-season.

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About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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