If you were unfamiliar with the oval ball, and your first exposure to rugby union was England’s quarter-final against Australia, you would be forgiven for thinking that the purpose of a scrum was to suck all of the life and enjoyment from an otherwise absorbing game.
Rule changes over the past decade have been implemented to protect players from the impact of a scrum, with the impacts on players’ necks reduced by up to 25% having done much to prevent injuries. Let’s take a look at some scrummage basics.
The Packs Line Up
Scrums are contested by the eight forward players on each team, with players binding together before engaging with the opposition. Under current laws, the front rows must bind on to each other before the scrum sets. The packs then push against each other before the scrum half of the team with possession puts the ball into the scrum.
A scrum consists of three rows, with two props either side of the hooker in the front row. These players engage directly with the opposition and took the brunt of the forces under old scrummaging laws. The second row consists of two locks, with the number eight and flankers making up the third row.
The hooker aims to ‘hook’ the ball back with their foot in order to return the ball to the scrum half, who will take a position at the rear of the scrum. To learn more about scrum technique, and other rugby training drills, visit https://www.sportplan.net/drills/rugby.
Restarting After a Knock-on
A scrum will most often be called for by a referee if the ball is knocked forward. As the ball can only be passed backwards in rugby, a player who knocks the ball forward accidentally or by design will cost their team possession of the ball, and the scrum will restart the match.
Occasionally, if the infringement is in an advantageous position and a team is awarded a penalty, they can elect to restart with a scrum. This can be a great strategy as it ties up the forward players, allowing their backs to run with more freedom. If the ball is moved quickly to the back of the scrum and passed quickly to the wings, attacking advantages can be gained before the pack has managed to get out of the scrum.