Thursday, 26 May 2011

The Scrum

One of the main facets of rugby union is the scrum. It is a great attacking weapon as it sucks in 8 defenders into one area of the pitch allowing space out wide for the backs to exploit.It is made up of all 8 forwards on both teams who bind with each other over the ball. Both teams then scrummage to gain possession of the ball by trying to shove the opposing team away from the ball and towards the opposing teams goal-line. A 9th player the scrumhalf feeds the ball into the middle of the scrum. The scrum is over when the ball is moved away from the scrum. This happens when either the scrumhalf or No. 8 take the ball from the back of the scrum or the ball is kicked out of the scrum.

Players in the scrum
Each side of the scrum is made up of three rows of forwards. The front row is the row of the scrum that meets the others teams scrum head on. It is made up of the two props, the tighthead prop and loosehead prop and the hooker. The hooker is in the middle of the frontrow and is called a hooker because it is their job to hook (kick backwards) the ball to the back of their side of the scrum. They have to have very powerful necks and shoulders to take the impact of the initial hit of the scrum.

The second row is made up of two locks. They 'lock' the scrum together by binding into the props in front of them. Together with the front row they are known as the 'tight five' (Picture above). Most of the power in the scrum comes from the 'tight five'.

The backrow in the scrum is made up of two flankers and the no. 8. The flankers flank either side of the scrum and the no. 8 binds to the very back of the scrum. It is also the no. 8's job to control the ball at the back of the scrum when the scrum is in action..

Rules of the scrum
There are many rules governing the scrum.

Setting of the scrum: The referee will set the scrum in a four step procedure which occurs when he calls crouch, touch, pause, engage. When the referee calls crouch the front rows on both sides must crouch down and get ready for the scrum engage. They are told 'touch', resulting in the props touching each other on the shoulder to show that they are at the correct distance from each other. They are told to pause and then engage. Both teams must engage at the same time or a free-kick will be awarded against the team who engaged too early. Once the scrum is set the scrumhalf feeds the ball into the scrum, the teams cannot start puching until this occurs.

Binding: All forwards have to remain bound in the scrum and cannot detach until the scrum is over.The props must bind the oppositions props on their upper arm/shoulder and must not collapse the scrum. They have to engage straight and not bore into the opposing props or try and force them upwards. Props often pop up dew to the pressure being exerted upon them by the other teams scrum which results in a penalty for the team applying the pressure.

The Scrumhalf: The feed must be straight from the scrumhalf to give both teams the opportunity to play the ball but this rule is rarely implemented properly. The opposition scrumhalf can follow the play as long he does not go in front of the ball or interfere with the other scrumhalf.  

Backs: All remaining players who are not involved in the scrum, besides the scrumhalf, have to remain onside.

The awarding of a scrum
A scrum is awarded to a team for many reasons.
Forward pass: When a player knocks-on the ball or throws a forward pass the other team are awarded a scrum if there is no advantage to that team in playing on.
Kicking: A team is also awarded a scrum if the opposing team kicks the ball over the dead-ball line or kicks the ball straight out from a kick-off.
Maul: A team may also have a scrum awarded against them if they carry a ball into a maul and do not use the ball.
Breakdown: If the play becomes unplayable at the breakdown the referee will award a scrum to the side going forward.
Penalty: A team when awarded a penalty can also choose to take a scrum rather than a kick at goal or a kick to touch.

The scrum in practice
As stated above the scrum is a very powerful attacking weapon but it can also be a signal of intent from a forward pack that they are going to dominate the match. It is the part of the game that front rows pride themselves on, as it shows the power of each pack of forwards. Winning the scrum battle can give the whole team a physiological advantage over the opposition team and put the team on the front foot.

To learn more about the rules and gameplay rugby union, click one of the links below:

Ruby Union Gameplay and Rules

Rugby Union Videos