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Mathieu Raynal calls for scrum time limit and bigger squads but with fewer replacements

Mathieu Raynal - Raynal calls for scrum time limit and bigger squads but with fewer replacements
Mathieu Raynal (right) has officiated at two World Cups and in two Lions series - Getty Images/Jean Catuffe

Mathieu Raynal, the French referee, has called for World Rugby to introduce a 30-second time limit on scrums as well as reducing the number of replacements that teams can make.

Raynal will retire as a rugby referee this summer after taking charge of his 50th Test during the July international window. In his 17 years with the whistle, Raynal has officiated at two World Cups and in two Lions series. Last November, he was crowned the Top 14’s referee of the year.

Last week, World Rugby announced a raft of proposals designed primarily to speed up the game but Raynal believes the governing body can go further by looking to mirror the shot-clock countdown system for scrums and capping the number of substitutions at five or six. “There are two things I’d like to see to increase the ball-in-play time,” Raynal told the Agence France-Presse agency. “That we limit the time it takes to set a scrum to 30 seconds, that we put in a shot clock like for penalties and conversations.

“There are too many replacements that come onto the field in the second half, I feel it breaks up the flow of a match. I would be in favour of having more people on a team sheet, 30 players for example, but we limit the number of replacements to five or six per match.”

Raynal’s comments are likely to upset members of the front-row union who feel that the scrum is already being marginalised. Last week, World Rugby announced that it would look to introduce a shot-clock for both scrums and lineouts as a law trial in certain competitions while its council will vote on a measure to remove the scrum option from a free kick, which is likely to penalise dominant packs from capitalising upon their advantage up front.

Raynal, meanwhile, is the latest high-profile referee from the 2023 World Cup to walk away from the sport, which includes Wayne Barnes, Brendon Pickerill, Jaco Peyper, Tom Foley and Joy Neville.

“This sport has given me a lot and refereeing it at the highest level for all these years has been a privilege and a great honour,” Raynal said. “After 18 years in the professional game and almost 350 games refereed, the end of the season will be time to bring to an end an activity which I have deeply loved and which has given me unforgettable experiences on pitches all around the world.

“Even if I had the power to do so, I would not change anything in my journey to this point, including, above all, the most difficult moments. Those moments awoke me to the limitless power of courage, fortitude and resilience and they also allowed me to enjoy the good times with even greater relish and intensity.”

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