Newcastle Falcons prop Franck Montanella believes rugby’s law-makers are removing the essence of the game with their new scrummaging protocols.
The International Rugby Board have moved to combat what they perceive as the problem of repeated collapses and resets, reducing the distance between the two front rows and making them bind on to each other before impact.
Montanella, however, has chiselled a career out of dominating the physical contest, and is worried the year-long trial will lead the game on a road towards rugby league.
“I am not very happy about it,” shrugged the Frenchman, who has joined the Falcons from London Welsh.
“I would not want to be a young prop just coming through in the game today, because these new rules are no good. I think the next new rule they come up with will be to remove scrummaging altogether, and to basically make it like rugby league.”
Insisting the front-row union are dead-set about the global experiment, Montanella said: “I don’t know a single prop who is in favour of the changes that have been brought in.
“I don’t know why they are doing it, because all the props are against it. These people talk about injuries, but hardly any injuries are from when the scrum goes down. And in any case, the new rules won’t stop scrums collapsing, because it is only human to go to ground when you have that amount of pressure.”
The one-time-capped French international is at Kingston Park after a productive personal season at London Welsh, even if the Exiles ultimately ended up slipping back down to the Championship.
He said: “I had signed with London Welsh for two years, but we were relegated and they hadn’t called me by the start of July.
“I went back to France to be with my family, so it has been a difficult choice to come back to England. It was one that I thought about for a long time, but I think this is the last challenge for me. I am 31 now but I know Dean Richards is a very good coach, so that is why I said let’s do it.
“My family are still over in France, but the club have been great in saying I can go back and visit them when the time is right during the season. They can also come and see me in Newcastle, and as a professional these are just the things you have to consider.”
Still riled by the manner of London Welsh’s implosion, which included a points deduction for registration irregularities, he added: “We started really well, and had some good players. There were times in the season when we had more points than Sale and London Irish, but the Tyson Keats passport thing and a lot of injuries around the same time just started to turn things the other way. Now is a new challenge, though, and one I am looking forward to.”
Setting realistic targets for the Falcons but hoping for better, Montanella said: “The first thing we need to do is to stay in the Premiership.
“I know how hard that is after last season at London Welsh, and I was not happy we got relegated in the end. We had a lot of opportunities to avoid it, but with Newcastle I think this is a club who can hope to do more than just stay up.
“When we start the season of we win two or three big games we can start to think about the top eight, but this is a tough league and you know you are going to be up against good teams every single time you go on the field.”
The Falcons are in action tomorrow night when they end their pre-season preparations against Edinburgh in Hawick, before a Falcons Development XV plays Blaydon at Crow Trees the day after.