New scrum laws for The Rugby Championship.

New scrum laws for The Rugby Championship.

Remember those stories your dad told that started with ‘when I was a boy’? Then one day you started one of them yourself? Well here’s another one.

Scrum Laws

When I was a boy a scrum was a fairly simple thing. We formed a scrum, when the front rows thought we were ready we engaged. When the ref thought we were square and stationary he would give the halfback the nod to step into the tunnel and when the hooker was ready he’d give the tap to feed the ball on to his waiting heel. Dead f’ing simple.

Then sometime in my twenties an engage sequence was added ‘for our safety’ I can’t remember exactly what it was but I think it was as simple as ‘touch…Engage’. I’m told this was as a result of a New Zealand team using ‘the hit’ to walk over the ball instead of hooking it back the traditional way.

What we have now is a result of officials trying to accommodate the hit and not enforcing the laws as they stood at the time or even as they stand today.

So what are the new scrum laws?

There is a new engagement sequence. ‘Crouch, touch, set’ is replaced with ‘crouch, bind, set’. This, I’m told, will de-power the hit by about 25 per cent. The video below gives a pretty good indication of what it looks like.

[youtube id=EEN7ZZUS3bg width=”600″ height=”350″]

That, as far as I can see, is the only actual law change. But what is going to happen is more emphasis on existing laws. The first is law 20.1.j.

Stationary and parallel. Until the ball leaves the scrum half’s hands, the scrum must be stationary and the middle line must be parallel to the goal lines. A team must not shove the scrum away from the mark before the ball is thrown in.

Sanction: Free Kick

I believe that enforcing this law will have a much greater effect than the new engage commands. Ensuring that the scrum is ‘stationary and parallel’ completely negates the need for a hit at all.

The second area of closer scrutiny concerns the throw in from the halfback. It’s covered by law 20.6 but part ‘d’ is the one the officials are paying closest attention to.

a) The scrum half must stand one metre from the mark on the middle line so that player’s head does not touch the scrum or go beyond the nearest front row player.

Sanction: Free Kick

(b) The scrum half must hold the ball with both hands, with its major axis parallel to the ground and to the touchline over the middle line between the front rows, mid-way between knee and ankle.

Sanction: Free Kick

(c) The scrum half must throw in the ball at a quick speed. The ball must be released from the scrum half’s hands from outside the tunnel.

Sanction: Free Kick

(d) The scrum half must throw in the ball straight along the middle line, so that it first touches the ground immediately beyond the width of the nearer prop’s shoulders.

Sanction: Free Kick

(e) The scrum half must throw in the ball with a single forward movement. This means that there must be no backward movement with the ball. The scrum half must not pretend to throw the ball.

Sanction: Free Kick

It’s long been a bugbear of mine that a hooker is expected to throw a lineout ball 15 metres perfectly down the middle of a lineout and a halfback can be close to 35 degrees off straight without a word said. Enforcing this law will force hookers to hook for the ball! A skill that I think some of them have never had to do.

As far as I can see is about all there is to it. It’s pretty simple. An evolution of the engage sequence and a couple of steps back to proven laws to add stability. I can’t see a downside. The props and coaches I discuss these things with aren’t arguing about whether the changes will work or not but about what the future props will look like.

On this there is a clear divide between the big guy to move bodies around and the shorter guy to take advantage of the angles that that height can generate. This is a sign that everyone thinks this is a move in the right direction and they’ve moved on to semantics.

[youtube id=CMLjQJG7c1E width=”600″ height=”350″]

The Rugby Championship is a week away. Do you think the scrum laws will be an instant fix? Will they work? Can you see a fault in the new system? Have I missed something? Let me know in the comments below.



Just another Rugby tragic. Shane "Sully" Sullivan has been in man love with the game since high school in the 70's. He inflicts his passion on family and anyone who will listen. He can't guarantee unbiased opinion but he can tell you the Reds are Awesome! To read non-rugby content head to

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