Thursday's Aviva Premiership launch day provided the first opportunity for BT Sport to showcase their innovative new rugby coverage and for the league to reflect on the controversial new scrummaging laws that come into effect in the UK for the first time next weekend.
While BT Sport's impressive roster of pundits and their broadcasting innovations were generally welcomed warmly by the clubs and the media alike, the same reception was not afforded to the scrum laws, with Richard Cockerill, Director of Rugby at champions Leicester Tigers, particularly forthright in his criticism of the changes.
Scrum-halves are now required to feed the ball straight and there will be a new three-stage scrum engagement sequence, with referees now saying "Crouch, Bind, Set." The changes have been introduced to heighten player welfare by reducing the impact of the engagement. It is also hoped that there will be fewer collapsed scrums and resets and will improve the fluency of the game as a whole.
The props will be expected to crouch on the referee's call, before binding with their outside arms. This bind will be maintained until the referee calls "set"; at this point the two packs can engage. The bind should reduce the impact of the engagement.
The new laws are part of a global trial and are currently being used in the Southern Hemisphere's Rugby Championship.
At the Press Conference to open the new season, however, Cockerill was dismayed that the changes are made without consulting the Premiership coaches.
"When they change these laws, nobody asks Premiership coaches about the laws of the scrums," he said. "Who changes these things and what's their agenda? We're receiving different messages now, but the scrum is still a mess, so we'll have to see how it settles down."
"They say it's for safety, but it looks like the southern hemisphere are just trying to depower the scrum so the ball comes in and out," continued the Tigers coach.
"In one of the Rugby Championship games we had two of the best scrum-halves in the world laughing at each other because they were worrying about feeding and getting carded."
Newcastle Falcons coach Dean Richards also expressed concerns.
"There's no secret that the southern hemisphere has had agendas in the past, in terms of dealing with the laws. You'd like to think that when they've said the changes are for safety reasons, that's the reason they've been made. If it's any other reason you'd be disappointed," he said.
Also new for 2013/14 are some exciting broadcasting innovations from BT Sport. Host Craig Doyle will lead a team that includes World Cup winners Lawrence Dallaglio, Ben Kay and Matt Dawson, as well as former England internationals Austin Healey and Martin Bayfield.
BT Sport have introduced three new cameras: in the dressing room, at the line-out and a kicking tee cam. They will hold half-time interviews with players and coaches as well as interviews with coaches whilst the action unfolds.
A pre-match walk will also see BT Sport's pundits interview players as they warm-up and invite them to explain drills and stretches to viewers.
Perhaps most importantly, there will now be Television Match Officials at all 135 Premiership matches, whether they are being shown live or not. The future looks very bright with just a week to go until the campaign begins.
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