From the start of next season there will be a global trial of the “crouch, bind, set” scrum engagement sequence, aimed at enhancing player welfare by reducing impact on engagement.
The International Rugby Board Council’s approval of the sequence, on player welfare grounds, comes with a call for game-wide commitment from law-makers, match officials, coaches and players, to ensure a fair and positive attitude in dealing with scrum issues.
Implementation follows extensive evaluation of the sequence during the recent IRB Pacific Rugby Cup, which showed the potential for a more stable platform leading to fewer resets and more successful scrums.
Props will now be expected to crouch on the referee’s call, bind using their outside arm after the referee has called "bind". The front rows will maintain the bind until the referee calls “set”. At that point, the two packs will engage.
The specialist IRB Scrum Steering Group, which includes Unions’ scrum experts, recommended the new sequence to the IRB Council after extensive testing and analysis at all levels of the game within the IRB-funded Scrum Forces Project run by the University of Bath in conjunction with the RFU.
IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset said: “The scrum is a fundamental and dynamic part of our game. It is important that we continue to promote the best possible player welfare standards and this trial process is about putting players first and delivering a reduction of the forces on engagement , which could have significant positive effects on long-term player welfare. I would like to thank all Unions for their support and enthusiasm throughout this process.”
The IRB will also instruct referees to ensure that the ball does not enter the tunnel unless the scrum is square and stationary and that a straight throw-in is strictly policed.
Lapasset added: “The implementation of the revised sequence alone is not about overcoming all the challenges of the scrum but it is a forward step. There is a collective responsibility for coaches, players and administrators to make the scrum a positive, fair and, above all, safe contest. Match officials will be stricter when refereeing the existing law.”
The RFU will be providing a game-wide educational process, featuring coach and match official workshops, from July so that everyone is fully informed for the new season.
The five Law changes currently being trialled and the trial change to television match official protocols will be considered by IRB Council at its annual meeting in 2014. This new scrum engagement trial will be before Council at its interim meeting the same year. Any amendments approved will be in place a year ahead of Rugby World Cup 2015.
The Scrum Steering Group includes RFU Community Rugby Medical Director Dr Mike England; RFU Area Manager, Gavin Williams and Dr Keith Stokes, of the University of Bath research team, with technical input from England scrum expert Graham Rowntree.
Dr England said: "The RFU puts a high priority on the welfare of our players at all levels of the game. As with our recent Headcase education programme about concussion injuries, this announcement today is an excellent example of how our scientific research into injury prevention can help inform developments in the laws of the game in a sensible way – without affecting the spirit in which rugby is played.
“The RFU is proud to be a key part of this work on the scrum engagement technique as part of its wider programme of player welfare and safety initiatives."