The scrum hit is a problem … And Tank Lanning suggests that losing it definitely does not mean that we lose the scrum as a contest.
The scrum has long been a bone of contention in rugby given the amount of time the resets and penalties are taking, and how damn difficult it is to manage from a refereeing point of view.
Yet it remains a bastion rugby union, differentiating it from its poor cousin rugby league, and it allows the “Fat boys” to play a meaningful role on the same field as the backline “Peacocks”, making the game unique.
The bottom line is that the scrum must remain in the game.
But a recent presentation by IRB Chief Medical Officer, Dr Martin Raftery titled “Scrum History, Scrum Force Project and Scrum Injuries” citing a number of studies that have been conducted predominantly at Bath University, presented the following worrying stats:
- RWC 2011 had twice as many scrum collapses and twice as many penalties compared to RWC 2003.
- RWC 2011 had three times as many collapses and four times the penalties compared to RWC 1995.
- Analysis of the scrums at RWC 2011 showed that there are on average 17 scrums per game; half of which are won cleanly, a third collapse, and the remaining 20% result in a penalty or free kick.
Throw in the injury concerns, and one can understand SARU’s attempt to increase safety, and quicken up the game by implementing substantial changes to the amateur scrumming laws that sees the scrum “Hit” removed from the game at that level.
I am no Isaac Newton, but just the nature of two huge forces coming together in a semi controlled car crash is also asking for trouble, hence the scrum going either up or down, and being so difficult to referee.
I am also slightly biased in that my neck is held together by a piece of titanium and some cow bone because of the hit … Or lack thereof to be specific … The opposition did not engage, and the top of my head went straight into the opposition loosehead’s leg … Which compressed vertebrae’s C4, C5 and C6 to the extent that the discs were pushed into my spine cord … Game over … Quite literally!
So the scrum hit is a problem … And perhaps losing it in favour of the old fashioned “Fold in” is not the worst thing in the world … And it certainly does not mean that we need to lose the scrum as a contest.
The contest will come after the hit, and might even bring back good old fashioned technique, and not just brute force, which is what the hit is mostly about these days.
The team feeding the ball into the scrum have the advantage in that they decide when this happens, and no doubt we will see a return to the “Steady, Sacs, Now” call which sees scrums tighten, dip and then explode upon the ball entering the scrum.
And on the opposition side, it will be all about exploding just as the ball gets fed into the scrum, perhaps even seeing a return to the “Ready, Ready, Ready … Now” call from the open side flanker or tighthead prop, the call aimed at readying the opposition for the explosion at the right time.
That is good old fashioned scrumming right there, and will not be for the faint of heart, or for the stick figures prancing around out wide waiting for the ball to be sent there way with a bow on it …
Make sure the scrummie gets the ball in straight, and you have an even better contest!
So the worry that teams will now pick lighter more mobile tight fives as the scrum won’t be such a big contact point does not hold too much water … Especially after you have lost 4 quick tightheads! And it is not as if modern day international props look too much different to flanks and centres these days in any case!
The one issue is how these young props, not having the hit as part of their armoury, will handle the brute force trauma of a hit once allowed to use it at first team level. And that will need to be watched carefully by both coaches and the authorities.