Listening to Austin Healey and Andrew Cotter in the Champions Cup match between Gloucester and Connacht, I found myself really sympathising with Healey with regards to the time it takes for a scrum to be complete, and how much game time is lost due to them.
This is my suggestion as to how the scrum should be managed in the top flight of Professional Rugby. I say the top flight as they all have Television Match Officials (TMO), who control the clock, so it would only have a slight tweak to the laws.
The commentators commented within the first half hour how long a scrum was taking to be completed. While that was true, I feel all teams take advantage of this especially during yellow card periods and the last quarter of the game, by running down the clock and nullifying any advantage the opposition may have.
I feel that the timing for scrums should lie with the TMOs, rather than the referee. If the first scrum collapses (or is not completed), and neither team is penalised, the clock should be stopped. It should stay stopped, until a scrum has successfully taken place, with the ball safely at the back of the scrum and playable. This would prevent teams from taking their time setting up for a scrum, and also not showing sufficient strength to keep a set and stable scrum, so that it needs re-set. By following this protocol, less game time would be lost, leading to a fairer outcome to the match. This would allow for a stable platform to be achieved, and a quicker (or less time consuming, by way of the clock) restart to the game. As an additional tweak, if the team are awarded a penalty / free kick and opt for a re-set scrum, the clock should re-start when the scrum is stable and the ball is below the scrum-half’s knees.
It will also hopefully prevent a referee from making a decision that is not correct with regards to an offending team. I have played in the scrum for many years (not the front row) and I have no idea what happens within it, especially the dark arts, so a referee would be completely forgiven for not always knowing what is going on, so his decision would be based on fact rather than supposition (or preconceived thinking). I know refereeing is a very hard occupation, but I sometimes think that certain referees have a preconceived idea of what is happening. With the time pressure being removed, they may allow a few more scrums to take before making a snap decision (if they are unsure).
It may seem a bit pedantic, but many games (especially towards the end), are become scrum after scrum, with no entertainment value for any supporters, so taking the timing issue away from the referee, will hopefully prevent any shenanigans between the front rows, and a more actual game time being played.