Changes to Scrum Laws

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Post by maestegmafia on Wed Jul 10, 2019 11:13 am

World Rugby has banned ‘axial loading’, a process of concentrating scrum power on the opposing hooker instead of allowing it to be spread along the shoulders of the opposing front-row.


“Following a detailed discussion on the risks associated to front-row players’ necks during the scrum engagement process, the Law Review Group (LRG) also supported a proposed amendment to Law 19 (Scrum) that, if approved, will outlaw the practice of front-rows placing their heads onto opposition players’ shoulders between the call of ‘bind’ and ‘set’," said World Rugby.

“It has been shown that this practice has resulted in potentially dangerous levels of axial loading on front-rows’ cervical spines.

“Given this issue has significant potential welfare implications, it will be actioned immediately.”

It effectively means during the start of a scrum, the hooker is stopped from leaning into his opposite number and transferring the weight of his fellow forwards onto his rival No.2 at the "BIND" call from the referee.

There must now be a clear gap and the official can insist on longer binding if necessary.

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Post by maestegmafia on Wed Jul 10, 2019 12:03 pm

Mike Ross former Ireland Prop

“On the bind, the hooker and props put their feet back, and most of the weight was loaded onto the hooker, through his neck and head, and onto the shoulder of the opposing hooker.

"The shoulders aren't touching so they're not obviously pre-engaged, but the head of the hooker is jammed against his opposite number's shoulders.

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Post by king_carlos on Wed Jul 10, 2019 12:46 pm

I still struggle to look past a return to proper hooking and the scrum-half feeding the ball down the centre of the tunnel as the simplest solution to scrum problems.

The increased agility required by the hooker would hopefully lead to hookers no longer being a third prop rather than a hooker.

Properly enforced sanctions against feeding would both encourage hooking of the ball and discourage the practice of intentionally collapsing the scrum as soon as the ball is at the number 8's feet, safe in the knowledge refs will usually call 'use it'.

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Post by tigertattie on Wed Jul 10, 2019 1:57 pm

I played prop for many a year and I can confirm that, as a prop, every scrum I went into, a large proportion of the scrum's weight went into my shoulders also.

How this axial loading works is beyond me. I take it there's some science behind it but I can't fathom this at all!
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Post by Irish Londoner on Wed Jul 10, 2019 3:08 pm

I'm going to get all Brian Moore on this but return the scrum to the packs form a scrum, the scrum half puts the ball in STRAIGHT! and that's the limit of the referee's involvement until the ball comes out between the feet of the No 8.

It really should be that simple.

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Post by profitius on Wed Jul 10, 2019 3:55 pm

This is another area where reducing the number of subs would have a positive impact. It would mean lighter forwards so less pressure in the scrum.
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Post by Poorfour on Wed Jul 10, 2019 7:00 pm

king_carlos wrote:I still struggle to look past a return to proper hooking and the scrum-half feeding the ball down the centre of the tunnel as the simplest solution to scrum problems.

The increased agility required by the hooker would hopefully lead to hookers no longer being a third prop rather than a hooker.

Properly enforced sanctions against feeding would both encourage hooking of the ball and discourage the practice of intentionally collapsing the scrum as soon as the ball is at the number 8's feet, safe in the knowledge refs will usually call 'use it'.

You are Brian Moore and I claim my £5. But I agree...
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Post by Rugby Fan on Thu Jul 11, 2019 12:27 am

When the laws once again required hookers to try and hook the ball, a number of players said the team with possession was at a disadvantage, because the opposition had no similar obligation, so could use all eight to try and shove the other pack off the ball. If they got their timing right, and did so just as the other hooker was trying to hook, then it was eight against seven. This is supposed to be why referees again started turning a blind eye to feeding, as it restored the attacking teams advantage.

This puzzled me, as you'd have thought such a simple tactic would have worked throughout the decades before, and yet, it was only occasionally successful. Even against a much stronger pack, a hooker could usually get the ball to the No.8 before the shove came on.

Initially, the problem was that the referee was instructed to tell the scrum half when to put the ball in, which removed the attacking side's advantage of timing the put-in. This was changed, but referees still go through pre-engage calls, so packs can time their shove in the same way a sprinter can try and anticipate the starting pistol with Ready, Set Go.

I would much prefer it if the referee stopped making engagement calls, and left it to packs to do it themselves. As long as you penalize scrums going for a hit, or an early shove, or a delayed put-in by the scrum half, then you should be able to have a straight put-in, and retain an advantage in hooking the ball back.

Perhaps this has already been ruled out as unsafe, especially in lower levels of the sport, but I wish it were possible.

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Post by tigertattie on Thu Jul 11, 2019 10:11 am

The issue is that the rules have been tinkered with beyond what the scrum was originally meant to be used for, as a means to restart the game, not as a means to try win a penalty.

The way round this is to rmeove the ref "coaching" element and let him ref the infringments.

The call should be crouch and bind, thats it. The engage or "set" as they made it,is the dangerous part as this is like a conductor telling all 16 players to ram together at the same time.

go back to the front rows "packing down" against each other with each prop leaning into his opposite man as and when he wants (within a reasonable timeframe) and the "hit" is gone.

The ref should also not tell the 9 when to put the ball in, but if the 9 is taking too long, free kick to the other side. If the 9 says the scrum isnt stable then he needs to take this up with his pack for not being able to take the weight of the other side.
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Post by maestegmafia on Thu Jul 11, 2019 11:12 am

I agree TT

In the old days the timing of the scrum half and hook for the feed, that had to be straight, was the way you beat an opposition shove and got a clean hook.

There was no hit and I don’t see that 1600 kegs of load smashing the front rows in the hit is anything but problematic for the players and the scrum.

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Post by tigertattie on Thu Jul 11, 2019 12:26 pm

I always found the hit to be silly, and particularly worrying for hookers and tightheads.

Its simple physics but if you cast this up to the front row union you are accused of "going soft" or not understanding the "dark arts" of forward play.

I've always been a forward, apart from the game where I played inside centre and scored a hat trick (yes, that’s how easy back play is) so I understand the forward world and I don’t want to change the aspect of the game where all sizes have a place, but the scrum should not be a bloomin all out strength contest or penalty opportunity. Get the ball out of there ASAP and get the game flowing.

If your opponent can shove you off the ball then fair play to them, but then they get the ball out of there and the game can flow.

The hit and reset after reset is just utterly dull for 95% of fans watching the game and this stationary dirge of attrition and attempts of cheating can’t be left in there to satisfy the 5% of front row purists.
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Post by The Great Aukster on Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:40 pm

As usual World Rugby ignore the need for surgery and prescribe a few painkillers instead. The problem is with the concept of the scrum rather than its mechanics.

Professional rugby is not a game for all sizes - players are getting bigger, faster, fitter and as a result more powerful. One 2015 study showed a peak compressive force on a front row player of 2.4kN which was 75% higher than 2000 figures.
Neither is the scrum a means to restart the game. It is more often used to do the opposite. Teams try to keep the ball in the scrum until they win a penalty and if they do, often opt for another scrum in the hope of forcing a yellow card. If a team has been carded they inevitably elicit a number of scrum resets to run the bin period down.

If World Rugby really were concerned about player welfare they should devalue the importance of scrum domination and reduce the incidence of scrums in the game. They could achieve this by only awarding free kicks for scrum infringements, and not allowing a scrum as a free kick option.

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Post by tigertattie on Fri Jul 12, 2019 4:27 pm

Good shout Auks and a good idea in principle. it would stop the re-sets but it would possbly go too far and remove the need for front rows in particular. If you have a naff scrum, then you get someone to bind like a numpy or pull the scrum down so the other team get a free kick.

I'm sure there would be many sides out there that would be happy to give away a free kick when they knock on.
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Post by The Oracle on Fri Jul 12, 2019 4:43 pm

The Great Aukster wrote:As usual World Rugby ignore the need for surgery and prescribe a few painkillers instead. The problem is with the concept of the scrum rather than its mechanics.

Professional rugby is not a game for all sizes - players are getting bigger, faster, fitter and as a result more powerful. One 2015 study showed a peak compressive force on a front row player of 2.4kN which was 75% higher than 2000 figures.
Neither is the scrum a means to restart the game. It is more often used to do the opposite. Teams try to keep the ball in the scrum until they win a penalty and if they do, often opt for another scrum in the hope of forcing a yellow card. If a team has been carded they inevitably elicit a number of scrum resets to run the bin period down.

If World Rugby really were concerned about player welfare they should devalue the importance of scrum domination and reduce the incidence of scrums in the game. They could achieve this by only awarding free kicks for scrum infringements, and not allowing a scrum as a free kick option.


I agree with some points here, but I think we've moved on a bit in the past couple of years too.  The whole 'playing for penalties' thing is a bit 2012!  The changes they have already brought in a few years back have sped the game up and resulted in fewer attempts to win penalties, IMO.  Just from my own side's point of view, with the old rules we had players like Adam Jones and a decent scrum overall and yes we'd try to squeeze penalties out, choose the scrum over lineouts and over running it, etc.  And we did quite well out of it.  But as soon as they brought in the scrum new laws and removed the hit Adam Jones was done!  End of career, essentially.  Wales moved quickly away from keeping the ball in the scrum and playing for penalties and we now get it out much quickly and run it more.  

Saying that, I still think a dominant scrum shouldn't be penalised though and should be encouraged as a weapon in the same way as a team with the fastest wingers will want to get the ball to the wings.  As you mention, players are getting bigger and faster.  But with a scrum you still need the big props who are slower.  De-power the scrum and we won't need the big slower guys and will replace with players more like flankers probably who can get around the pitch better than props.  And before you know it we have rugby league with 15 players of equal size and speed but with less room on the pitch!  

Keep the scrums and their power, and keep the mismatches between players of different shapes and sizes I say.  That's what makes rugby great, IMO.
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Post by The Great Aukster on Fri Jul 12, 2019 6:06 pm

tigertattie wrote:Good shout Auks and a good idea in principle. it would stop the re-sets but it would possbly go too far and remove the need for front rows in particular. If you have a naff scrum, then you get someone to bind like a numpy or pull the scrum down so the other team get a free kick.

I'm sure there would be many sides out there that would be happy to give away a free kick when they knock on.

Teams still won't want to turn over the ball every time the opposition knock-on either. The benefit of a strong scrum is that it ties in the opposition pack to open space for the backs. The scrum could still be called as an option from an in-play penalty so the importance of it isn't diminished - only the abuse of it.

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Post by No 7&1/2 on Fri Jul 12, 2019 6:26 pm

Teams already balance the scrum vs open play ie vunipola vs guys which could scrummage well on lions tours. Downplaying the damage that can do in the scrum would encourage those choices.

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Post by The Great Aukster on Fri Jul 12, 2019 6:41 pm

The Oracle wrote:
The Great Aukster wrote:As usual World Rugby ignore the need for surgery and prescribe a few painkillers instead. The problem is with the concept of the scrum rather than its mechanics.

Professional rugby is not a game for all sizes - players are getting bigger, faster, fitter and as a result more powerful. One 2015 study showed a peak compressive force on a front row player of 2.4kN which was 75% higher than 2000 figures.
Neither is the scrum a means to restart the game. It is more often used to do the opposite. Teams try to keep the ball in the scrum until they win a penalty and if they do, often opt for another scrum in the hope of forcing a yellow card. If a team has been carded they inevitably elicit a number of scrum resets to run the bin period down.

If World Rugby really were concerned about player welfare they should devalue the importance of scrum domination and reduce the incidence of scrums in the game. They could achieve this by only awarding free kicks for scrum infringements, and not allowing a scrum as a free kick option.


I agree with some points here, but I think we've moved on a bit in the past couple of years too.  The whole 'playing for penalties' thing is a bit 2012!  The changes they have already brought in a few years back have sped the game up and resulted in fewer attempts to win penalties, IMO.  Just from my own side's point of view, with the old rules we had players like Adam Jones and a decent scrum overall and yes we'd try to squeeze penalties out, choose the scrum over lineouts and over running it, etc.  And we did quite well out of it.  But as soon as they brought in the scrum new laws and removed the hit Adam Jones was done!  End of career, essentially.  Wales moved quickly away from keeping the ball in the scrum and playing for penalties and we now get it out much quickly and run it more.  

Saying that, I still think a dominant scrum shouldn't be penalised though and should be encouraged as a weapon in the same way as a team with the fastest wingers will want to get the ball to the wings.  As you mention, players are getting bigger and faster.  But with a scrum you still need the big props who are slower.  De-power the scrum and we won't need the big slower guys and will replace with players more like flankers probably who can get around the pitch better than props.  And before you know it we have rugby league with 15 players of equal size and speed but with less room on the pitch!  

Keep the scrums and their power, and keep the mismatches between players of different shapes and sizes I say.  That's what makes rugby great, IMO.

The point is that scrum or no scrum, the players will continue to get bigger, faster and fitter anyway. Props and Hookers already play like Flankers in the pro game. My point is not to de-power the scrum, but rather de-value it. Reducing it's importance will reduce the number of scrums and resets and so reduce the chance of injury.

A team getting reversed in the scrum puts their defence on the back foot and sets up the opportunity for the attacking side. Perhaps some teams are still living in 2012 but I seem to recall Wales this year getting a scrum penalty when under pressure in their own red zone. The penalty escape is much easier than a free kick one, but if the penalty wasn't on offer the game might see a lot more running from deep.

The scrum's existence is a differentiation between Union and League that doesn't have to change, but your mention of the numbers might force it to. Already in Union with defences getting so good there is hardly any space on the pitch and that naturally drives the quest for bigger and bigger players who can bulldoze through traffic rather than nip round it. Maybe a solution would be to reduce Union to 13 man aside like League but reduce the pack to 6 rather than 8. This would reduce the force in the scrum and create more space on the pitch?

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Post by robbo277 on Fri Jul 12, 2019 10:00 pm

My solution for the scrum would be where the referee to try to penalise the side going forward first. So if a team gets a march on, look at all their players for any hint of illegality. If one scrum gets a shunt on in the first couple, watch them closely to find out what they're doing.

If the referee tries to penalise anything the team going forward is doing, it will remove any incentive to cheat to go forward. It will allow stronger scrums to continue to flourish, but only if they are actually operating within the letter of the law - the laws themselves I'm not sure need as much tweaking.

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Post by The Oracle on Fri Jul 12, 2019 10:04 pm

But how many injuries are we really getting from scrums? Is it really such a big problem? I’d like to see the evidence first. I’d question why the focus on scrums when, from what I can see, the bigger issue injury-wise seems to be tackling? That’s where we’re getting the real issues.

Further de-powering the hit would do it for me. Like in the old days. The packs form and set, quite casually without any hit, a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, and when they’re all set and the ref is happy the ball is put in and the two packs can push, but not before. No hit, less premeditated tactics, still the need for proper props and still rewards available for teams with a good scrum.

You mention teams like Wales getting scrum penalties recently. Of course they should if they can win it. It’s a sport so each facet of play should be contestable. Maybe a free kick as an outcome would do it. But scrummaging is an integral part of the game that I wouldn’t want to see gone. And if we de-power it or even de-value it I fear we won’t need the props and it just becomes even more homogenised a la league. And then it really is just a game of the biggest and fittest and bash your way through.
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Post by The Great Aukster on Sat Jul 13, 2019 10:59 am

The Oracle wrote:But how many injuries are we really getting from scrums? Is it really such a big problem? I’d like to see the evidence first. I’d question why the focus on scrums when, from what I can see, the bigger issue injury-wise seems to be tackling? That’s where we’re getting the real issues.

Further de-powering the hit would do it for me. Like in the old days. The packs form and set, quite casually without any hit, a bit of to-ing and fro-ing, and when they’re all set and the ref is happy the ball is put in and the two packs can push, but not before. No hit, less premeditated tactics, still the need for proper props and still rewards available for teams with a good scrum.

You mention teams like Wales getting scrum penalties recently. Of course they should if they can win it. It’s a sport so each facet of play should be contestable. Maybe a free kick as an outcome would do it. But scrummaging is an integral part of the game that I wouldn’t want to see gone. And if we de-power it or even de-value it I fear we won’t need the props and it just becomes even more homogenised a la league. And then it really is just a game of the biggest and fittest and bash your way through.

Agree that tackling is by far the biggest danger, but Prop replacements are called up in RWCs more than any other position, so the scrum issues are still there.
We're mostly on the same page regarding the need to preserve the concept of the scrum, but the WR Law change to address 'axial loading' complicates an already congested section of the Law book. I agree simplification is a good path as most referees don't seem to have much of a clue how to officiate the current version, and in truth he is trying to see fine details in a heaving mass involving 18 players.
The current scrum has become a reverse tug-of-war with two eights pushing rather than pulling. While this contest admittedly requires a lot of technique, the winner is usually the pack that is more powerful. The elements of timing and footballing skill that I associate with 'rugby football' are generally not required. Just as you mentioned Adam Jones becoming obsolete, so too are Hookers who can actually hook and 8s who can dribble.
World Rugby witter on about maintaining the traditions of the game, but in truth are always tinkering at it. They have to keep tinkering because they won't address the root problem - the scrum needs surgery not painkillers.

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Post by Taylorman on Sat Jul 13, 2019 11:17 am

Not knowing a lot about whatever it is those prop fullas do in the scrum, it will be interesting how any rule changes impact the top 10-15 props in the game. When they changed to the current scrum set calls from memory those that specialised in the big hits fell out of favour.
So from a logical standpoint, are the current top ranked props likely to either benefit or struggle with the new ruling depending on the success of their current technique?

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Post by tigertattie on Mon Jul 15, 2019 11:02 am

The Great Aukster wrote:
tigertattie wrote:Good shout Auks and a good idea in principle. it would stop the re-sets but it would possbly go too far and remove the need for front rows in particular. If you have a naff scrum, then you get someone to bind like a numpy or pull the scrum down so the other team get a free kick.

I'm sure there would be many sides out there that would be happy to give away a free kick when they knock on.

Teams still won't want to turn over the ball every time the opposition knock-on either. The benefit of a strong scrum is that it ties in the opposition pack to open space for the backs. The scrum could still be called as an option from an in-play penalty so the importance of it isn't diminished - only the abuse of it.

Hmm, I'm not sure I'm putting this over correctly

My point is this:
Japan vs France
Japan have the ball on halfway and knock on.
France have their heaviest forward pack in history out there
Japan have, at best, an average scrum
Japan therefore commit a binding infringement on purpose to stop the giant French pack from driving them into their own 22.
Free kick given to France
France have to tap and go and Japan get to spread out their defensive line rather than be tied up in the scrum.

The team with the "dominant" scrum then has a weapon removed so there is no need for giant scrummagers.
Likewise, this could have a detriment to teams with a decent scrum but have electric backs who love running at the space created by the forwards being tied up n a scrum. No Scrum, no space!
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Post by Gooseberry on Mon Jul 15, 2019 11:20 am

tigertattie wrote:
The Great Aukster wrote:
tigertattie wrote:Good shout Auks and a good idea in principle. it would stop the re-sets but it would possbly go too far and remove the need for front rows in particular. If you have a naff scrum, then you get someone to bind like a numpy or pull the scrum down so the other team get a free kick.

I'm sure there would be many sides out there that would be happy to give away a free kick when they knock on.

Teams still won't want to turn over the ball every time the opposition knock-on either. The benefit of a strong scrum is that it ties in the opposition pack to open space for the backs. The scrum could still be called as an option from an in-play penalty so the importance of it isn't diminished - only the abuse of it.

Hmm, I'm not sure I'm putting this over correctly

My point is this:
Japan vs France
Japan have the ball on halfway and knock on.
France have their heaviest forward pack in history out there
Japan have, at best, an average scrum
Japan therefore commit a binding infringement on purpose to stop the giant French pack from driving them into their own 22.
Free kick given to France
France have to tap and go and Japan get to spread out their defensive line rather than be tied up in the scrum.

The team with the "dominant" scrum then has a weapon removed so there is no need for giant scrummagers.
Likewise, this could have a detriment to teams with a decent scrum but have electric backs who love running at the space created by the forwards being tied up n a scrum. No Scrum, no space!

Well the obvious answer to that is to get rid of flankers.

Hang on

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Post by Sharkey06 on Mon Jul 15, 2019 1:55 pm

The main issue with scrums is that most/all international referees are former backs who have little knowledge on scrums.  Even back 5 scrum players have little knowledge of the the real front row dark arts.  Teams have seen this and have taken advantage of the weakness by playing for penalties, or taking away the other teams scrum superiority.

There seem to be enough former front row intenrationals commentating on the game, who seem to be quite clear on the cause of a scrum collapse or other infringement.  Why can you not have specialist scrum referees simply to officiate that part of the game?
If you negate scrums by only awarding free kicks for infringements, you may as well go the extra step and bring in league style scrums.

Union is a more complicated game than league, which is why for many people it is a more engaging sport.  Rather than tinkering around with the scrum rules, just apply the existing ones correctly and consistently.

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Post by bsando on Mon Jul 15, 2019 2:21 pm

Well said!

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Post by tigertattie on Mon Jul 15, 2019 2:30 pm

Thats why I dont want to remove the art of scrummaging from the game, but I do think the scrum has become a method of trying to win a penalty rather than trying to win the scrum.

The old way of forming up by leaning into the opposition and then pushing when the ball was fed (up the middle) of the channel is in my opinion what we need to go back to. You can still use strength and pack cohesion to win the scrum.

Get rid of the "hit" at the scrum formation. Will at least sort out the axial loading caper!
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