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‘Scrums are boring!’ Sale boss Steve Diamond says rugby must change

Rugby is in danger of turning off its viewers with its endless complications and slow scrums, according to Steve Diamond.

The Sale boss endured his side’s turgid defeat by Harlequins as the Premiership restarted last Friday night.

And he is worried the sport will lose the fight for relevance if it does not speed up set-pieces. 

‘What King Herod was to baby-sitting, scrums are to entertainment to rugby – it is absolutely boring!’ said the Sharks director of rugby.

‘I’m not the first person to say it and I’m a hooker.

‘When I go for a pint every now and then not many people know about rugby. There’s a big football pub in Manchester – one day it’s blue, the next it’s red – and people don’t understand it.

‘All people see is, set down for a scrum, guy puts his foot forward six inches too early, it’s a reset, it breaks up, we go back down again… it’s not entertainment.

‘We’ll be converting people like Ben and Tom Curry to props in the next five years, it’ll be just an engagement and off you go, you’ll want more skilful players in those positions. 

‘Take our game on Friday – the ball was only in play for 25 minutes. That’s ridiculous. The game has a duty to entertain. I try to bring players that can show their wares, be entertaining and create a cult following from that.

‘Fans want to see skill at high pace and collisions, end of story. They don’t want to see line-outs, they don’t want to see Morris dancers.

‘Get it in, get it out, and off we go.’ 

All clubs are set for a gruelling week-and-a-half with three games in just eight days for some.

To that end the league, Rugby Players’ Association and RFU announced no player can start all three of those, are restricted to 180 minutes of action in a week and cannot play more than six of seven games between last weekend and September 13 as part of player welfare restrictions.

Rob Baxter, whose Exeter Chiefs play Sale on Friday, Bristol next Tuesday and Worcester the following Sunday said clubs will manage their stars appropriately. 

‘I’ve had two players saying they want to play every game,’ he said.

‘I told them they weren’t going to. Would the schedule make it the best title win or just a unique one? Some lads will be really proud of it.

‘I can imagine Luke Cowan-Dickie in the bar in five years’ time telling the next young hooker “In 2020 I played 10 games in three weeks!” Some are seeing it as a one-off opportunity to test themselves, others are a bit concerned.

‘England will want players who are up and ready to play Tests (in the autumn). This is an incredibly different season. It has got to be player by player.’ 

Meanwhile England captain Owen Farrell is still a doubt for Saracens as he has a thigh strain. Mark McCall hopes he can face Harlequins on Saturday having missed the opener.

‘It’s minor, but we don’t want a minor injury to turn into a worse injury,’ he said. 

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