We do indeed take a totally different view of the law. I don't see how holding the ball and assessing your options can fail to constitute delay.my difference with you OB - is that I don't see 'without delay' precluding the player from looking up and assessing options.
often he'll run to collect the ball with his back to play, I don't think the Law is intended to stop him from gathering the ball, looking up to see where everyone is, and dotting it down to get the scrum back.
Strictly speaking he is not taking an action with the ball. I don't like to see players doing that - it just uses up time. Unfortunately I think they are exploiting a loophole.conversely if the ball is on the ground in goal I think the Law does preclude him from standing next to it for a prolonged period of time before taking action to touch down.
I have just looked back at the history of this law. The options date from 1992, and a note was added in 1995 [LAWS]The options in Section (4) must be exercised without delay and if a defending player after gathering the ball in-goal, runs with it or passes it, he has taken the option to play on.[/LAWS]
In the 2000 re-write it became "Any other action with the ball ...".
The problem has been with us for a long time. I remember a team-mate picking up the ball and immediately grounding it without looking up. The referee allowed the option this once but warned him against doing it again. Afterwards the player explained that he had merely been making it clear he was grounding it as on a previous occasion when he just put a hand on it the referee thought he had missed touching it.